US Deploys Tanks and Equipment to Classified Cold War-era Caves in Norway Near the NATO-Russia Frontier

February 22nd, 2016 - by admin

The Daily Mail and Reuters – 2016-02-22 00:40:35

(February 18, 2016) – The US military has deployed tanks and artillery equipment to Cold War-era caves in Norway in an effort to better equip stations near the NATO-Russia frontier.

The move is part of a push by Washington to bolster NATO’s defenses in Europe and have weaponry ‘ready to go’ should a crisis with Russia arise. Russia shares a 121.6-mile long border with Norway.

‘Any gear that is forward-deployed both reduces cost and speeds up our ability to support operations in crisis, so we’re able to fall in on gear that is ready-to-go and respond to whatever that crisis may be,’ Col. William Bentley, operations officer for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, told CNN on Thursday.

The six-cave system, located in central Norway, is considered classified. However the caves were first used by the US as an arms depot in 1981 during the Cold War.

They are climate controlled and operated by about 100 Norwegian and US personnel. The cave system contains enough equipment to support 15,000 Marines.

In a drill scheduled to take place later this month, called Cold War Response 16, 6,500 pieces of equipment from inside the facility will be deployed, according to CNN. Twelve NATO allies and partners and more than 16,000 troops will be involved in the drill.

Heather Conley, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Europe Program, told CNN the caves had once again become a strategic asset because of their location. ‘Now that we have a very new security context with Russia, it now makes sense to rethink what is needed,’ she said.

The deployment of new equipment caves comes amid renewed tensions between NATO and Russia. CNN reported that Russian president Vladimir Putin remains angered that President Obama referred to Russia as a ‘regional power’ in a now-infamous speech.

The deployment in Norway comes after the Pentagon announced comes after the Pentagon announced a $3.4 billion budget for the European Reassurance Initiative in an effort to deter what the US calls Russian aggression against NATO allies. The weapons and other equipment stored in the caves have also been used to support operations in Iraq.

Earlier this week, the US pressed NATO to play a bigger role against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, putting Washington at odds with Germany and France, which fear the strategy would risk confrontation with the alliance’s old Cold War foe Russia.

All 28 NATO allies are already part of a 66-nation anti-Islamic State coalition, so the United States is looking to NATO as an institution to bring its equipment, training and the expertise it gained leading a coalition in Afghanistan.

‘It is worth exploring how NATO, as NATO, could make an appropriate contribution, leveraging for example its unique capabilities, such as force generation,’ U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said after meeting allies at NATO headquarters in Brussels last week and referring to NATO’s know-how in drumming-up troops, planes and ships from allies.

Seeking to recapture the Islamic State strongholds of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, Washington wants a bigger European response to the chaos and failing states near Europe’s borders.

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