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Norway wants hundreds more US Marines, and it wants them closer to Russia

Marines discuss the best avenue of approach to maintain cover and concealment during training at Vaernes Garrison, Norway, April 6, 2018. Norway is planning to ask the United States for more Marines on regular rotations. (CLINTON FIRSTBROOK/U.S. MARINE CORPS)

Norway will ask the United States to more than double its Marine presence in the country and to deploy them closer to the Russian border.

The request would raise the contingent from 330 Marines on a six-month rotation to 700, the Norwegian government said in a statement Tuesday. The rotations began last year and have since been routinely extended.

Norway, like other NATO member states that border Russia, has expressed concern about Moscow’s increased assertiveness, following Russia’s invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

“The defense of Norway depends on the support of our NATO allies, as is the case in most other NATO countries,” Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said in a statement. “For this support to work in times of crises and war, we are totally dependent on joint training and exercises in times of peace.”

Norway is proposing that the Marines continue their short-term rotations for an additional five years. The rotations would include an unspecified number of Marines rotating to the Arctic Troms region, about 250 miles from the Russian border.

The Marines are now based near Trondheim, about 900 miles from Norway’s border with Russia, but frequent exercises in the frigid north often bring the Marines much closer.

In addition to the rotational forces there, the Marines also maintain several massive underground caves in Norway, where essential gear and vehicles are pre-positioned beneath secret locations around the Trondelag region. The gear is often withdrawn and utilized for various exercises in northern Europe.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said in a statement that the proposal is not a move to establish permanent U.S. bases in Norway, as the forces will continue to deploy there on a rotational basis.

Soreide added that she expected a reaction from Moscow, as the Norwegians “always get reactions to practice and training in cooperation with NATO.”

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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