Monday, October 24, 2016

About 300 U.S. marines to be based in Norway

The Norwegian government is considering allowing a contingent of about 300 U.S. marines to be based in the country in order to facilitate better military cooperation between the two countries and to be prepared in the event of a crisis involving Russia.

The marines would deploy on a six-month rotation, pending approval of the Norwegian government, after which additional rotations would follow. The U.S. already has crisis response teams for Africa, the Middle East and Japan.
A Norwegian newspaper reported that the Vaernes air base in Stjordal is being considered to house the marines. The air station is already serving as part of Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway. This program allows the Marine Corps to store thousands of vehicles and other military gear in caves that are temperature controlled. The vehicles are ready for joint exercises or any combat contingency. The base is far from Russia, about 1,000 miles — although in the extreme north Norway shares a 120 mile border with Russia.
Major General Niel Nelson, the commander of the U.S. Marine Corps in Europe and Africa, would confirm only that the possibility of the deployment was being considered:"We have a long and close relationship with our friends in the Norwegian Armed Forces, and a limited rotational Marine presence in Norway is one option being considered as a further development of this relationship. However, at this time, it would be premature to discuss possible implementation of such an initiative before the appropriate Norwegian political processes are completed."Local reports indicate that if approved, the first rotation of troops could arrive as soon as January. The Norwegian Ministry of Defense has supported the arrangement.
A report from Press TV says:“Assessments have taken place within the military to look at the options for additional training, storage and this kind of thing," said Norwegian Defense Ministry spokeswoman Ann Kristin Salbuvik on Monday.
The Norwegian deployment will be just one of many moves made by the U.S. to collaborate with EU allies. Last year, the Allied Maritime Basing Initiative began that placed a small number of U.S. marines on board French, Dutch and Spanish ships to better enable the marines to respond to crises and reassure partners against any Russian moves in eastern Europe. Just this July, U.S. Army officials revealed that it intends to create a division headquarters and artillery brigade in Europe in the coming years on a rotational basis. The move would add more than 40,000 additional soldiers to those already in Europe by next year. This is all part of what the Pentagon calls its "European Reassurance Initiative" that began in 2014 after Russia annexed the Crimea.
The U.S. Marine Corps already operates a Black Sea Rotational Force in six month deployments of 500 marines that carries out partner exercises with eastern European countries to promote regional stability. This will continue regardless of what happens in Norway.
Earlier this year, almost 2,000 marines were in Trondheim Norway to take part in the exercise Cold Response. The exercise involved 16,000 troops from 15 different countries. General Robert Neller, Marine Commandant said: "We were working to repopulate our [pre-positioning equipment] in the caves, and the Norwegians were happy to see us, and I'm sure our Russian friends were paying attention. Mr. Putin has done us a great favor."


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