Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Carlo Munoz / The Washington Times & RT News – 2017-01-17 00:45:02
US Marines Deployed to Russian Border Area in Norway
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(January 16, 2017) — Tensions are already on the rise between the US and Russia over massive US deployments in Germany for a training exercise marching east toward Russia. A force of US Marines are now heading to Trondheim, Norway for another deployment along the Russian border.
Russia is none too happy, again, both annoyed at the US for deployment yet more troops along their border, and at Norway, who promised not to host any foreign troops on the Russian border when they became part of NATO. Norway insists this is just a temporary deployment and doesn’t count.
How temporary? Officials say the US Marines will be in the area for at least a year, focusing on “cold weather” exercises which appear to center on “learning how to cope with skis.” They added the skis will have “nothing to do with Russia or the current situation.”
Russia will doubtless note that there are plenty of places to ski that aren’t a stone’s throw from the NATO/Russia border, and this will just be the latest in a long list of small irritants adding to the tension between the US and Russia.
More US Marines deployed near Russian borders
Carlo Munoz / The Washington Times
(January 16, 2017) — A force of some 300 US Marines hit the ground in Norway on Monday, marking the second major American deployment near Russian borders this month.
The Marines based out of Camp Lejune in North Carolina will be in the Arctic nation for a year-long rotation at Vaernes military base, roughly 900 miles from Russia’s border. It is the first American military deployment to Norway since World War II.
It comes less than a week after 3,000 US troops arrived in Poland and other Baltic nations as part of NATO’s Operation Atlantic Resolve, which is viewed by the Kremlin as a direct threat to Russia’s expanding authority and influence in the region.
The Norway deployment, first announced in October, will focus on training for joint combat operations and arctic warfare, Norwegian Home Guards spokesman Rune Haarstad told Reuters Monday.
Russian diplomats lashed out at the US troop presence, demanding Oslo explain the military benefits of the American presence in the country, other than to antagonize Moscow.
“Taking into account multiple statements of Norwegian officials about the absence of threat from Russia to Norway we would like to understand for what purposes is Norway so . . . willing to increase its military potential, in particular through stationing of American forces,” Russian embassy officials said in a statement to Reuters.
In May, Russian military commanders announced plans to three newly created military divisions to protect its southern and western borders.
Totaling roughly 30,000 troops, the mission for those new divisions would be to counteract American and NATO troop buildups in the region, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in an interview at the time with state-run media outlets.
US Marines Land in Norway, Signaling
Departure from Post-WW2 Commitment to Russia
(January 16, 2017) — Almost 300 US Marines from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, arrived in Norway on Monday. The deployment signals a departure from the NATO member’s decades-old policy of not hosting foreign troops on its soil.
The agreement for stationing the American troops will last for at least a year. The contingent that has come this week will be rotated in six months. The Marines will be hosted at the Vaernes base of the Norwegian Home Guards near Trondheim, Norway’s third-largest city.
The stated goal of the mission is to train the US troops in Arctic warfare.
“For the first four weeks they will have basic winter training, learn how to cope with skis and to survive in the Arctic environment,” said Rune Haarstad, a Home Guard spokesman, as cited by Reuters. “It has nothing to do with Russia or the current situation.”
In March, the Marines will take part in the Joint Viking exercises, which will also include British troops, he added.
Both Norway and the US deny the notion that the deployment is meant to irk Russia as part of NATO’s wider campaign to oppose what it calls “Russian aggression” in Europe, by sending additional troops and weapons closer to the Russian border.
A founding member of the alliance, Norway pledged not to host foreign forces to allay Moscow’s concerns that it could serve as a platform for a surprise attack. For decades the Scandinavian country stashed massive stockpiles of weapons in preparation for a possible conflict, but only allowed in other allies’ troops for training purposes.
Oslo dismisses the notion that the deployment goes against the old commitment, saying that American troops would be rotated rather than stationed permanently. NATO routinely applies the same reasoning to all its deployments in Eastern Europe as a way to circumvent the alliance’s agreement with Russia, which bans permanent deployments of “significant” forces near Russia.
The US Marine Corps touted the practical benefits of a full-time deployment as the reason for the move.
“We’ve been going to Norway for 25 years. So I don’t really know what the hype is about,” Maj. Gen. Niel Nelson, commander of Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, told Military.com ahead of the deployment. “We’re just doing our job, from a more economical standpoint. I don’t put a lot of stock in people pointing back and forth.”
“By putting Marines in Norway and above the Arctic Circle for 30-60 days at a time, that’s a whole different environment,” Nelson added. “You not only learn to survive, you are surviving. It’s a harsh environment; it takes a lot of tough lessons and we reinforce that by the length of time.”
When the rotational deployment of US Marines in Norway was confirmed last year, Russia said it was puzzled by it.
“Taking into account multiple statements of Norwegian officials about the absence of threat from Russia to Norway, we would like to understand for what purposes is Norway so willing to increase its military potential, in particular through the stationing of American forces in Vaernes?” the Russian embassy said at the time.
Norway and Russia share a small land border far in the north. The Vaernes base is located 1,500km from any part of Russia, but the Arctic training program involves traveling closer to it.
Russia ‘Puzzled’ by Norway’s Decision
To Host US Marines in Violation of Decades-old Commitment
(October 26, 2016) — Norway is to break a decades-old commitment not to host foreign troops on its soil by accommodating 330 US Marines next year. Russia, the apparent target of the buildup, said it was puzzled by the move.
The Marines will be stationed at the Vaernes military base in central Norway from January, the Norwegian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Monday. The agreement for the deployment will be reviewed in the course of the year, it added.
“The United States is our most important ally and we have a near-bilateral relationship that we wish to develop,” Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said.
While Soereide didn’t specifically mention a Russian military threat on Monday, she had previously voiced sentiments about Russia currently prevalent within the alliance.
Moscow denies posing a threat to any NATO member.
Commenting on Norway’s decision, the Russian embassy in Oslo said it was puzzled by the step.
Taking into account multiple statements of Norwegian officials about the absence of threat from Russia to Norway, we would like to understand for what purposes is Norway so willing to increase its military potential, in particular through the stationing of American forces in Vaernes?” it told Reuters on Tuesday.
Norway is a founding member of NATO and has an almost 200km-long border with Russia in the Arctic. During the Cold War the country stored large amounts of military hardware meant as a contingency for a major war in Europe. The equipment was meant to arm a contingent of NATO troops, which would be deployed in Norway.
However, Norway pledged not to host foreign troops on its soil in 1945, after Soviet troops left the country after driving out the Nazis. The commitment survived decades of ideological confrontation and continued after the USSR’s collapse.
Other NATO members have sent troops for training in Norway, with as many as 15,000 visitors arriving for an exercise in 2000. The new deployment of US Marines technically follows the same procedure, allowing US military personnel in Norway on provisional rotation rather than permanently.
Oslo’s decision was criticized by some politicians in Norway.
“This is not a good signal to send. We face a cold political climate that requires predictability from Norway,” Audun Lysbakken, the leader of the opposition Socialist Left party, told public broadcaster NRK.
“We should rather reinforce our national defense and not aim for some form of permanent presence by US troops,” he said.
The government says the US gets more from the deployment than Norway does in terms of security. Norway’s military has operational experience in harsh weather conditions and mountainous terrain, which is less common for the US, which usually deploys troops to hotter locations like the Middle East.
The deployment appears to be in line with NATO’s strategy to boost its military presence close to Russia’s borders. The alliance decided to send four 1,000-strong battalions each to Poland and the Baltic states, claiming it was needed to deter Russia.
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