After a little more than 300 U.S. Marines deployed to Norway last year—marking the first time the country had foreign troops inside its borders since the World War II— Oslo has announced that it plans to invite more than double the number of U.S. troops into its territory. The move is likely to rile Russia, who shares a border with Norway and views the U.S. troops as a threat.
Norway's decision is widely seen as an attempt to stave off any possible incursions from Oslo’s larger neighbor. The U.S. Marines were only expected to stay in Norway until the end of this year, but now Norway wants to increase the U.S. military presence in its country after 2019. The U.S. troops will be asked to stay for at least five years after that, according to reports, and are expected to be sent to regions of Norway that border Russia.
Moscow’s neighbors, such as Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have all expressed concern over Russia’s revanchist tendencies following the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and Moscow’s support for pro-Russian separatists fighting in Ukraine. In 2016, Norway began building a fence along its border with Russia, and the idea of an invasion has become so deeply ingrained in the Norwegian consciousness that the country produced a popular television series about the subject called Occupied.
Norway is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and is consequently protected from any foreign invasion by the alliance’s Article 5, which guarantees collective defense. Still, reports indicate that the country’s government has grown nervous since President Donald Trump began suggesting last year that the U.S. might not honor its obligation to defend its NATO allies. Inviting more U.S. troops into the country is a way to guarantee NATO’s involvement if a military confrontation were to take place, analysts argued.
Norway and the U.S. have both said that the U.S. Marines are stationed in the country in order to train in freezing temperatures. There are currently no plans to have a permanent U.S. military base in the country.
Members of Norway’s political opposition, however, have expressed some concern over the presence of U.S. troops in their country. Last year, opposition members asked the government if the U.S. Marines are being used to make up for weaknesses in Norway’s defense capabilities that the government should address through more investment. Norway’s military is reportedly experiencing a shortage of personnel.
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