On Monday, about 300 U.S. Marines landed in Norway for a six-month deployment at the Vaernes military base about 900 miles from the Russian border. The Marines arrival marked the first time Norway has allowed any foreign troops to be stationed on their soil since the Second World War. American troops are slated to be stationed in the Scandinavian country for a year, with the current group of Marines to be replaced with a second group half way through. The deployment comes less than a week after President Obama sent troops to Poland to combat Russian acts of aggression against the nation’s NATO allies.
In October, Norway’s Defense Ministry spoke of the possibility of the United States stationing troops in their nation and said that doing so would fulfill a “long-standing U.S. wish.”
“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 said in October.
Rune Haarstad, a spokesman for the Norwegian Home Guards who are hosting the Marines, said that the U.S. troops will learn about winter warfare while stationed at Vaernes and that their deployment has nothing to do with Russia or protecting NATO allies.
“For the first four weeks they will have basic winter training, learn how to cope with skis and to survive in the Arctic environment,” Haarstad said. “It has nothing to do with Russia or the current situation.”
In March the Marines are set to partake in the “Joint Viking” exercises along with British troops.
Russia’s Defense Ministry has yet to comment on the Marines’ arrival in Norway.