Russia is hinting that a new wave of U.S. Marines in Norway, near the Russian border in the Troms region, could be viewed as an attack, the MarineTimes reported.
Last week, the Russian Embassy in Norway warned of consequences for the latest U.S. troop buildup, and on Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova criticized Norway for its expanded military cooperation with Washington.
A Marine with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 18.1 sends live rounds down range while conducting a squad attack during winter warfare training at Haltdalen Training Center, Norway, April 18, 2018. (Gunnery Sgt. Clinton Firstbrook/Marine Corps/MarineTimes)
According to Zakharova, the policy of the Norwegian government to support a doubling of Marines “in the country and deploy them near the border with Russia undermines mutual confidence.” Furthermore, she argues, the Marines’ presence in the Arctic country — a few hundred miles from the Russian border, in fact, could be an attack.
The statements come as the Norwegian government intends to add another 400 U.S. Marines to Norway before the most significant military exercise since the Cold War this fall.
However, the Marines are not permanently stationed in the country, only on a “rotational deployment,” the Norwegian defense ministry recently stressed.
“We paid attention to the reports of the Norwegian Ministry of Defense released on June 13, which contain Oslo’s agreement to double the US Marine Corps stationed on the Norwegian territory from 330 to 700 people, prolong their rotation presence there for five years, expand its footprint to the north, closer to the border with our country, and create infrastructure for warplanes at the expense of the US under the implementation of the so-called European initiative to deter Russia,” Zakharova said.
“We believe that such decisions undermine the traditional Norwegian policy of non-deployment on its territory of foreign military bases in peacetime on a permanent basis. It is clear that the actions of the current Norwegian authorities undermine confidence and predictability in bilateral relations and run counter to the earlier given pledges on the rejection of policy with aggressive goals.”
The Russian Embassy of the United States points out on Facebook that “such actions run counter to the decision Norway made in 1949 not to allow foreign states to set up military bases on the country’s territory until Norway was under attack or threat of attack.” This could lead to “rising tensions and trigger an arms race, destabilizing the situation in northern Europe,” the embassy warned, adding that “we consider them to be clearly unfriendly so they cannot go without consequences.”
Zakharova reiterated that Norway’s officials repeatedly stated that Russia poses no threat to the country’s security. “Considering that the US Marine Corps is stationed on Norway’s territory, maybe the US attacked Norway?” she concluded. “We are calling on the Norwegian side to consider the Russian opinion on the developments in order to preserve the atmosphere of friendly neighborhood that has been developing for many years.”
The Russian Embassy in the United States claims that the Marines “presence will be continuous,” while troops will change every six months. The embassy added, “this is the way all military bases and even embassies operate.”
“We are particularly concerned that Oslo is implementing these plans when there is neither substantive political dialogue nor meaningful contact between the [Russian and Norwegian] militaries, as Norway has been avoiding contacts,” the Russian embassy said.
“We believe that European security must be equal and indivisible. It is only possible to ensure it if true national interests are pursued, while there is mutual respect and cooperation. The sooner Oslo comes to realize it the better,” the embassy added.