While Russia enhances Cold War-era Soviet Union survival measures, nearly 330 American Marines prepare to deploy to Norway in January, boosting the U.S. military footprint in Europe, reportedly marking the first time a foreign military has been posted in the European country since World War II amid heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow.
Earlier this year, the Army announced plans to boost its presence by deploying armored brigade combat teams into Europe in early 2017. The Marines noted a presence in Norway would boost NATO’s ability to “rapidly aggregate and employ forces in Northern Europe.”
Norway shares a 122-mile-long border with Russia in the Arctic. U.S. troops will be stationed at a base in central Norway that is about 600 miles from that border and elsewhere in the European country, according to the Norwegian Defense Ministry, which officially announced the deployment Monday.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) notes that “commentators on state-dominated airwaves issued some of the shrillest anti-American rhetoric in years.”
“Russia is sick of America’s arrogant lies,” influential commentator Dmitry Kiselyov reportedly said this month after a Syrian peace plan collapsed.
Russian authorities have stepped up nuclear-war survival measures amid a showdown with Washington, dusting off Soviet-era civil-defense plans and upgrading bomb shelters in the biggest cities.
At the Kremlin’s Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Cold War is back.
The country recently held its biggest civil defense drills since the collapse of the U.S.S.R., with what officials said were 40 million people rehearsing a response to chemical and nuclear threats.
According to the Norwegian Defense Ministry, a rotational force of nearly 330 U.S. Marines will deploy to Norway at the beginning of next year, a move that will increase America’s military presence in Europe.
“The U.S. initiative to augment their training and exercises in Norway by locating a Marine Corps Rotational Force in Norway is highly welcome and will have positive implications for our already strong bilateral relationship,” declared Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide in a statement Monday.
Norway’s defense ministry revealed that the American Marines will participate in exercises and training for a trial period at the the Vaernes military base in central Norway and elsewhere in the country.
Ultimately, Norwegian officials will decide whether to allow the deployment to continue beyond next year.
“Taking into account multiple statements made by Norwegian officials about the absence of threat from Russia to Norway, we would like to understand why Norway is so much willing to increase its military potential, in particular through the stationing of American forces in Vaernes,” said Maxime Gourov, spokesman for the Russian embassy in the Norwegian capital of Oslo, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The U.S. troop increase in Europe comes as the administration of President Barack Obama has been confronting an increasingly aggressive Russia in Europe and Syria.
Following a mistaken U.S.-led coalition strike on Russian-backed Syrian troops loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad last month, Russia’s Defense Ministry warned that the Kremlin’s aerial defense capabilities could shoot down any American plane that threatened its military.
There are plans to implement a fourfold increase in funding for the European Reassurance Initiative next year.
In the meantime, Russia is conducting nuclear war survival drills — upgrading shelters and testing gas masks.
“Videos of emergency workers deployed in hazmat suits or checking the ventilation in bomb shelters were prominently aired on television when the four days of drills were held across the country,” notes WSJ. “Students tried on gas masks and placed dummies on stretchers in school auditoriums.”
Andrey Mishchenko, deputy chief of Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations, noted that the Kremlin is also upgrading Moscow’s civil-defense plans.
“An inventory was taken in Moscow of the city’s underground spaces, in order to allow us to plan for sheltering 100% of the city’s population,” he said, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.
The rhetoric of an all-out war between the United States and Russia “reinforces Russians’ idea that their country is a superpower on par with the U.S.,” points out the Journal. “ It also offers a distraction from an economic recession and from President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings, which have dipped from recent highs.”