Described as a temporary posting, the Norwegian Defense Ministry revealed plans on Monday to host 330 U.S. Marines at its Værnes Air Station in Stjørdal, Norway, beginning in January 2017.
A trial, Norway clarified the existence of U.S. combat troops at Vaernes would be subject to a review.
Expressing security concerns without specifically mentioning neighboring Russia, Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide released a statement explaining the deployment.
“The United States are our most important ally and we have a near bilateral relationship that we wish to develop,” read the Ministry’s press release.
“The defense of Norway is dependent on allied reinforcement and it is crucial for Norwegian security that our allies get the knowledge required to operate in Norway, together with Norwegian forces.”
A sharp critic of the Russian occupation and annexation of Crimea in 2014, Soereide, who has served as Defense Minister since 2013, has publicly expressed concern over the Kremlin’s tendency to conduct diplomacy with its military.
The deployment of the detachment of Marines is the first time Norway has hosted foreign troops on its soil since the end of the Second World War. After 1945, Norway publicly pledged never to allow the permanent presence of foreign troops on its soil.
A NATO member, Norway has often cooperated in military exercises, but the presence of foreign troops was temporary and related to military alliance drills.
The move was greeted with skepticism among Norway’s socialists over fear the presence of U.S. troops would lead to worsening diplomatic relations between Moscow and Oslo.
“This is not a good signal to send. We face a cold political climate that requires predictability from Norway. We should rather reinforce our national defense and not aim for some form of permanent presence by U.S. troops,” Audun Lysbakken, leader of the opposition Socialist Left party, told public broadcaster NRK.
Moscow responded to the move with some surprise. A statement from the Russian embassy in Oslo commenting on the news of the new deployment revealed bewilderment.
“(Considering) multiple statements made by Norwegian officials about the absence of threat from Russia to Norway, we would like to understand why Norway is so much willing to increase its military potential, in particular through the stationing of American forces in Vaernes,” the statement said.
[Reuters] [Photo courtesy military.com]