Washington pulls 700 US marines out of Norway

Patrol leader Joergen Aas (L) and radio operator Thomas Lundmann patrol the Norwegian side of the Norway-Russia border in Pasvik valley, Finnmark county, Norway October 23, 2019. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

The US Marines has been permanently stationed in Norway on a rotational basis since 2017. That arrangement now comes to an end, the Norwegian Armed Forces informs.

From late fall this year, the Americans will pull out and visit Norway only in connection with exercises.

It is a major shift in US security relations with Norway, that inevitably will affect the military situation in the region.

Up to 700 marines today serve in Norway, many of them in the northern parts of the country. The force has rotated on a 6-month basis.

From late fall this year, only about 20 US marines will be left in Norway.

“Cooperation continues”

The Norwegian side downplays the significance of the force reduction. Cooperation and joint training will continue, the country’s military underlines.

“For the Army, good joint training will continue and at times with bigger American forces than today,” Major General Lars Lervik says in a comment.

About 400 marines are expected to take part in an exercise this fall, and up to 1,000 troops will engage in winter training early 2021, the Norwegian Army informs.

The US military hardware stored in Norway will remain in the country.

Force reorganization

The pull-out of Norway is reported to come in connection with a long-term reform process in U.S. forces. That process is headed by Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite, the former U.S. ambassador to Norway.

According to the Norwegian government, the U.S forces will not abandon Norway. In a comment to newspaper Aftenposten, Deputy Defense Minister Tone Skogen underlines that there is no talk about a cut from the side of the US Marines, only a “changed organization of training in Norway.”

It is believed that the U.S Marines now increasingly will put its main focus on the situation in the Pacific region and relations with China.

The situation in the Pacific region was also the reported reason why the American participation in Norwegian exercise Cold Response was reduced by 3,000 men in early 2020.

Continued Arctic engagement

The cut in presence in Norway comes as the U.S military increases its military engagement in the North Atlantic and the Arctic.

In the summer of 2020, US guided-missile destroyer «USS Roosevelt» sailed for more than 28 days above the Arctic Circle.

American flags in the Barents Sea is now “the new normal,” a defence analyst told the Barents Observer.

In addition comes a significant increase in US Air Force activities in the north. Over the last year, U.S long-range bombers B-1B, as well as stealth bomber B-2 and strategic bombers B-52, have paid visits to the region.

Rejoice in Moscow

The reduced permanent presence of U.S forces in Norway will be warmly welcomed in Moscow, where the authorities repeatedly have criticized Norway for its close cooperation with the American marines.

On a number of occasions, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his deputies have lashed out against Oslo with accusations that it breaks with its traditional base policy according to which foreign troops are not to be permanently stationed in the country.

As late as early June this year, Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov in an interview underlined that Norway’s military buildup in the North “undermines peace, stability  and the atmosphere of trust in the region.”

Related stories from around the North

Canada: Canada’s long-term neglect of Arctic must stop says Senate report, Eye on the Arctic

Denmark: Denmark, U.S. affirm need to ‘maintain and build situational awareness’ in the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Finland joins other Nordic countries in virtual tourism due to pandemic, Yle News

Iceland: Nordics should aim for common approach to China’s Arctic involvement says report, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norway strengthens its Arctic military in new defense plan as security concerns grow in the region, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Two Chinese rigs prepare for drilling in Russian Arctic waters, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden’s FM calls for more EU involvement in Arctic as country hosts EU Arctic Forum, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. wants to keep the Arctic an area of low tensions, top official, Radio Canada International

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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