Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, shown at a press conference with US counterpart Ashton Carter last month in Oslo. Photo: erje Pedersen / NTB scanpix
The ministry Oslo said that the deployment of US troops would be part of a rotating arrangement in
Norway that would fulfil a “long-standing US wish.”
“Assessments have taken place within the military to look at the options for additional training, storage and this kind of thing,” a ministry spokesman, Ann Kristin Salbuvik, told AFP. “It may be something that is carried out on a rotational basis… (but) there is no question of permanent deployment.”
Salbuvik stressed that ideas were still at an early stage and were being conducted by the two militaries and had not been broached at a political level.
Norwegian newspaper Adresseavisen reported on Monday that 300 combat US Marines could soon be in place at the Værnes military base near Trondheim, about 1,000 kilometres from the Russian-Norwegian frontier. Several defence sources told the newspaper that the plans to put US troops at the military base have been underway for some time.
“The work is underway but the initiative has not yet been debated politically in the Ministry of Defence, so we do not have any more detailed answers a this time. Any concrete proposals will naturally be handled by the government and parliament in the usual way,” Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide told Adresseavisen in a written statement.
Norway and Russia share a 200-km border in the Arctic Circle and John Kristen Skorgen, a senior national security and defence researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said that the Pentagon's plans are likely to be construed as a new base for US troops and will lead to strong reactions.
“This is happening in a situation in which relations between Russia and Nato are difficult. There is every reason to be careful,” he said.
Norway became one of Nato's founding members in 1949, but – in response to Soviet fears – promised not to let foreign combat forces deploy on its territory as long as the country was not under attack or threatened with attack.
The commitment was subsequently revised so that foreign troops could carry out exercises on Norwegian soil.
Adresseavisen spoke with several members of parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee who were unfamiliar with the American plans. MP Liv Signe Navarsete of the Centre Party responded by sending a formal written enquiry on the matter to the minister.