16:49 GMT +317 August 2017
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    Soldiers and Airmen with the Minnesota National Guard begin the process of adjusting the binding mechanics on their Nordic skis at Camp Vaernes, Norway, on Feb. 11, 2017.

    Norwegian-US Brotherhood in Arms Triggers New Arms Race

    CC BY 2.0 / Minnesota National Guard / 170211-Z-CQ961-124
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    In his recent Q&A session, Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned US submarines "on patrol off the coast of Norway." Today, Norway is increasing its activity within NATO as one of Washington's most loyal partners in Europe.

    Recently it became known that the US Marine Corps and Norway could double or even triple the stockpiles of military ammunition stored in the Trondheim area in northern Norway in the event of an emergency, such as a hypothetical war with Russia.

    According to treaties dating back to the Cold War-era, the US Marines have six military depots in the Trondheim Mountains, as well as two airfields in central Norway. The caves currently hold enough to equip a fighting force of 4,600 Marines, but the stockpile may soon grow to become much bigger. Now, the US Marine Corps wants to up the Norwegian reserves to sustain a brigade: from 8,000 to 16,000 men, the Business Insider magazine reported. The Norwegian government is expected to give its answer by the end of the year.

    At the same time, the US would also like to increase the preparedness for rapid deployment. To test this scenario, Strategic Mobility Exercise (Stratmobex) was held in May 2017, when US marines and their Norwegian colleagues quickly withdrew 500 heavy units, including tanks, from the depots. Furthermore, drills of this kind have become frequent. In January, the US Marine Corps stationed a rotary force of 300 men, whose goal is to uphold the equipment, maintain preparedness and hold drills with the Norwegian army.

    ​In Norway, this is being presented as a precaution needed to hold back "aggressive" Russia. Incidentally, Norwegian cooperation with the US took off in 2014, roughly at the same time when relations with Russia began to sour. Before 2014, the Norwegian and Russian Navies conducted joint exercises in the Barents Sea and were on friendly terms.

    In 2015, however, Norwegian Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg said that her country was ready to participate in the European missile defense system, which may include a new US radar on the polar island of Vardø near the Russian border.

    Since 1998, Vardø has housed the Globus II radar installation, the official purpose of which is to track down space junk. However, the radar has triggered many a heated controversy due to its proximity to Russia and its possible intelligence role. At present, the new US radar, Globus III, which would allow monitoring missile launches from Russian submarines, is under construction. Whereas the Norwegian side ensures that the new radar is just a modernization of existing systems, the US claims the common European missile defense system is being deployed to intercept Iran's long-range missiles.

    In addition to the US radar, Norway is modernizing its missile defense systems at Ørland and Evenes military bases, where soon-to-be-delivered F-35 aircraft will be deployed together with five new P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft, which will be tasked with monitoring Russian submarines. The increased range of missiles is claimed to be a measure to protect both Norwegian facilities and the allied infrastructure in the northern part of the country.

    Lastly, Norway plans to modernize its submarine fleet by 2025-2030 and take into service four new submarines built by Germany's ThyssenKrupp.

    While Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg admitted it herself that no military attack from Russia is expected, Norway nevertheless continues to build up its military capabilities in the region, forcing Russia to respond. While nobody calls this creeping militarization a "new Cold War," both countries are nevertheless being drawn into an arms race.

    Related:

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    Tags:
    arms race, Russia, United States, Scandinavia, Norway
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