The USA is strengthening its military presence in Europe, and Norway will play a key role in deterrence measures against Russia in 2018 too. The USA plans on spending NOK 37 billion in this strengthening process; an increase of NOK 12 billion compared with 2017 figures.
In January 2017, around 300 US marine soldiers were deployed at Værnes near Trondheim, Norway, on a rotation basis. The deployment was not well received by the Russians.
– That fact that 330 marines are placed rather far away from Russian territory does not quite calm us, said Russian Ambassador to Norway, Teimuraz Otarovich Ramishvili, in one of the Ambassador’s interviews with High North News last year.
Characterizes Norway as an ‘exceptional ally’
As early as last summer, Norwegian the-Minister of Defense Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide confirmed that the American presence at Værnes would be extended through all of 2018 too.
In the press release published by the US marine following the Defense Minister’s statement, Norway is characterized as an ‘exceptional ally who increases its defense spending and commits to acquire critical capacity and competence’.
- Our marines in Norway demonstrate a high level of cooperation with our allies, says the US Marine Corps’ Commandant Robert Neller.
Neller was in Norway visiting the American troops before Christmas.
In a twitter message published on 20 December, he applauds the marines with the words ‘Stay ready! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Semper Fidelis’. The latter expression in Latin means ‘Always faithful’ and has always been the motto of the US Marine Corps.
Trump confronted with war allegations
Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg visited Washington yesterday and met with US President Donald Trump.
At the press conference last night (Norwegian time), Trump was confronted with Neller’s statement during the Værnes visit, in which he said that ‘there is a war coming’.
- Maybe he knows something I don’t know. I do not expect it, was the President’s comment to the statement, before he referred to the USA’s fairly substantial strengthening of its defense.
- I believe in peace through strength. It may not be the general’s perception, but I believe my opinion counts more, Trump said.
At the press conference, the American President reiterated his requirement and expectation that all NATO countries, including Norway, have to make an effort to contribute with up to two percent of their GDP on defense spending. Norway will, with its new defense plan, reach about 1.6 percent.
Erna Solberg also took the opportunity to remind Trump that Norway also spends a lot of money on intelligence in the High North and, not to forget, through its acquisition of fighter planes and other military equipment from the USA.
Buying skis and spending at Rygge airport
According to the American web site military.com, the US Marine Corps will spend about NOK 100 million on skis this year, skis that are a.o. to be used for winter practice in Norway.
Before Christmas it was also announced that the American defense plans to spend nearly NOK 100 million on building fighter plane facilities on the military parts of Rygge air base.
According to the local daily Sarpsborg Arbeiderblad, American defense personnel have repeatedly visited Rygge airbase as a part of the construction process.
The 2018 budget of the American defense was adopted mid-December 2017, and so far the Congress has allocated USD 10.3 million to the project.
It appears that Rygge’s strategic location attracts the Americans, as the base is already home to Norwegian fighter planes that are to defend the Arctic. Østfold County, where Rygge is situated, is already playing a key role in receiving allied forces and can also work as a solid starting point for potential NATO-led operations in the Baltic Sea.
According to Sarpsborg Arbeiderblad, the Americans want to establish a so-called QRA base (Quick Reaction Alert) at the military airbase, so that it can be used by all NATO countries should there be a need for increased presence in Norway or Northern Europe.
From de-escalation to deterrence
Following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in 2014, the USA established a program for supporting its NATO allies in Europe.
The program was originally called the ‘European Reassurance Initiative’, however, last year it changed its name to the ‘European Deterrence Initiative’.
According to the US Ministry of Defense’s budget for 2018, a sum of NOK 37 billion has been allocated to deter Russia. In 2017, by comparison, the sum was NOK 25 billion.
According to information from the USA’s European command, some 7,000 American servicemen are funded through the EDI initiative.
Apparently, there are no plans to increase the number of US defense personnel deployed in Europe on a permanent basis.
However, High North News understands that the US Marine Corps is interested in increasing its rotation basis presence in Europe and also spending more resources on pre-deployment of military equipment.