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U.S. Pulls 700 Marines Out of Norway

Marines from the US Marine Corps during an amphibious operation on the winter exercise Cold Response 2020 in Norway
Marines from the US Marine Corps during an amphibious operation on the winter exercise Cold Response 2020 in Norway. Photo: Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvaret.

In a couple of months, permanent stationing of the US Marine Corps in Norway comes to an end. The two countries will continue to cooperate on future training exercises.

Since 2017, US Marines (USMC) have been a permanent presence throughout central and northern Norway. But later this year, that rotational arrangement comes to an end. According to a statement from the Norwegian Armed Forces, the American troops will only return to Norway in connection with exercises.

For the last few years, up to 700 US Marines have served in Norway at any one time. Many of them were based in Trondheim, Bodø, and more remote parts of northern Norway. Personnel were rotated on a six-month basis.

Two american F-15 getting ready for take off with two french rafale in the background during the exercise Arctic Challenge Exercise 2019 at Bodø Air Station.
American F-15s on the tarmac at Bodø Air Station in Norway. Photo: Hanne Hernes.

In a few months time, just 20 will remain in Norway to plan future training exercises. Some military equipment will also remain.

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Training exercises to continue

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

Rotational forces will continue in the country until the end of October, when 400 troops will train. In January, around 1,000 soldiers from the Naval Corps will conduct winter training. Following this, USMC will train and practice in Norway on a periodic basis, mostly in the north.

Dutch soldiers of the 45e PantserInfanterie Batalijon practice together with American soldiers and their Chinook helikopters in tactical procedures.
Trident Juncture 2018: American and Dutch soldiers train together in Norway. Photo: Captain Evert-Jan Daniels / Nato.

“This still provides good joint training, and will at times involve training and exercises with larger US units than today. It provides increased complexity and training benefits for Norwegian and American forces,” says Chief of the Army, Major General Lars Lervik.

What's next for the region?

As Lervik said, the number of Marines who train and practice winter skills in Norway may be greater than today during exercises. However, in other periods, USMC will have a vastly reduced presence in Norway.

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The Norwegian Armed Forces are putting a positive spin on the news. But the Barents Observer called it a major shift in security relations that “inevitably will affect the military situation in the region.”

Marines from the US Marine Corps during an amphibious operation on the winter exercise Cold Response 2020 in Norway
American Marines during a Cold Response exercise in Norway. Photo: Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvaret.

Without doubt, the news of the U.S. withdrawal will be welcomed in Moscow. Several times, Russian authorities have expressed their concern at the close cooperation between Norway and the U.S. Earlier this year, Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov said that Norway’s military buildup “undermines peace, stability  and the atmosphere of trust in the region.”

Despite the reduction in troops stationed in Norway, the U.S. continues to prioritise the Arctic region. One defense analyst told the Barents Observer that American flags in the Barents Sea is now “the new normal.”

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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