US Marines to Norway

Norway’s government welcomes the troops, but not all politicians and peace organizations are enamored by the plan

Michael Sandelson & Sarah Bostock
The Foreigner

The some 330-strong U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) contingent will be deployed to Nord-Trøndelag County’s Værnes from January 2017 following parliamentary approval.

“This U.S. initiative is welcome and also fits well within ongoing processes in NATO to increase exercises, training, and interoperability within the Alliance,” explains Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide in a statement.

The rotational force agreement builds on the framework of longstanding agreements between the U.S. and Norway on prepositioning and reinforcement, according to the Ministry of Defense-issued statement.

It was renewed in 2005 in the Memorandum of Understanding Governing Prestockage and Reinforcement of Norway. It opens the door for a considerable increase of American training and exercises in Norway.

Norwegian government and opposition politicians express reservations about the U.S. military’s current initiative. The Foreigner spoke with Liv Signe Navarsete, leader of the Center Party (Sp).

“We were informed in January that the U.S. Army may ask us about placing marines in Norway on a rotational basis, but then we did not hear any more about it. One might say that the recent vote prolongs the 2006 agreement, if reading the press statement carefully, but it was signed ten years ago.”

The joint operations are for a trial period of one year, during which the government will determine how to proceed with the USMC rotational presence beyond 2017 following an initial evaluation. Navarsete thinks that Norwegian politicians should discuss the issue more widely, however.

“I suppose that the government would like to prolong the period if this initial testing proves successful, but then we need to have a broader debate about it. I want a strong Norwegian army, and, in principle, am in favor of foreign soldiers coming to Norway to train side-by-side with ours. However, I don’t want these U.S. Marines or troops from other countries to serve as a replacement for Norwegian ones,” she explains.

There will also have to be a discussion about how Norway’s relationship with neighboring country Russia could be affected by prolonging the move.

“Temporary rotational periods of weeks or some months are one thing, but a more permanent scheme quite another,” she says. “Various Norwegian governments have been very strict about allowing foreign troops to continually be on Norwegian soil since 1949, when we became a member of NATO.”

Hedda Langemyr, general manager of the Norwegian Peace Council in Oslo, thinks the government’s move is unwise, bearing in mind current NATO-Russia tensions.

“This policy and rhetoric are extremely disturbing following many years of Norway being a buffer between the East and the West,” she tells NRK.

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit theforeigner.no.

It also appeared in the Nov. 4, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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