US Marines are stationed in Norway to help deter Russia, and Norway may ask them to stay longer

US Marines conduct live-fire practice in preparation for exercise Joint Viking, in Porsangmoen, Norway, March 1, 2017. Norway is considering whether to ask the US to extend the deployment of Marines to the country.

The US has already expressed interest in an extension, Norway’s defense minister said in March.

Marines in Norway are focused on training for cold-weather operations — training motivated in part by increasing tensions with Russia.

Norway’s government may ask the US to extend a Marine Corps deployment in the country, Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told Reuters .

“We are currently in a phase where we are discussing different options, but I think from our point of view it has been very useful and very successful,” she said.

Contingents of about 300 Marines from various units have been stationed in Norway for six-month deployments. The first rotational force arrived at Vaernes in central Norway in January 2017 — the first time a foreign force was stationed on Norwegian soil since World War II (though Norway and the Marine Corps have managed weapons and equipment stored in caves there since the Cold War).

The deployment has already been extended, with the initial rotational force being replaced by another in August 2017. The roughly 330 Marines in the country are now scheduled to stay until the end of the year.

Marines in Norway have focused on cold-weather training, doing exercises with Norwegians and other partner forces. Some of those exercises have taken place near Norway’s border with Russia, which has criticized the Marines’ presence in Norway. Russia’s embassy in Norway told Reuters that extending the Marines’ presence would worsen Norway’s relations with Moscow and could raise tensions on NATO’s northern boundary.

“The Americans have been very happy with how things have played out,” Soereide said. “They do see after many years where they had a lack of winter training and expertise of wintry conditions … they are now, to a larger extent, able to deal with the cold.”

Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said in March that the US was interested in continuing the deployment and that his government hoped to make a decision on it in the coming months.

The Pentagon “would like to extend the [deployment] and they would like to see whether we could increase,” he told Defense News during a visit to Washington. “We will look into it and give them an answer in, before the summer … that’s my ambition.” A ‘big-ass fight’

The Norway deployments are part of efforts across the US military to increase training for cold-weather operations.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller said in January that US forces “haven’t been in the cold-weather business for a while.””Some of the risks and threats there,” he said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “There is a possibility we are going to be there.”During a visit with Marines stationed in Norway at the end of 2017, Neller was more blunt in his assessment.Telling Marines in the country to remain ready […]

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