Russian Foreign Affairs spokeswoman says decision to host US troops will strain Norway-Russia ties

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - October 31, 2016
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In an interview with Norwegian broadcaster NRK, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that “Norwegian-Russian relations are now being put to the test.”

The statement come after Norway this week announced that 330 U.S soldiers will be permanently based in Værnes, near the city of Trondheim. It is a test arrangement, which will take effect beginning January 2017, according to the Norwegian Ministry of Defense.

“This will clearly not improve our relationship,” Zakharova said.

Norwegian soldiers, U.S. Marines, Dutch and U.K. Royal Commandos do an integrated air insert during a training event for Exercise Cold Response 16, March 3, 2016 around the city of Namsos, Norway. The cold-weather environment of Norway challenges the integration of air, land and sea capabilities from 13 NATO allies and partners while improving their collective capacity to respond and operate as a team.  (Master Sgt. Chad McMeen / U.S. Marine Corps)
Norwegian soldiers, U.S. Marines, Dutch and U.K. Royal Commandos do an integrated air insert during a training event for Exercise Cold Response 16, March 3, 2016 around the city of Namsos, Norway. The cold-weather environment of Norway challenges the integration of air, land and sea capabilities from 13 NATO allies and partners while improving their collective capacity to respond and operate as a team. (Master Sgt. Chad McMeen / U.S. Marine Corps)

She says that it is not up to the Russian MFA to come up with a reaction to the military development. However, she is confident that Russian authorities will “give an appropriate response.”

“Instead of strengthening our economic cooperation, you strengthen the presence of U.S. soldiers on Norwegian territory,” Zakharova says to NRK. “What are the biggest benefits for Norway – to trade with Russia or to serve American soldiers?”

Norway’s Minister of Defense Ine Eriksen Søreide argues that the placement of the U.S. soldiers comes irrespective of the security situation in the region.

“Allied exercise and training has for a long time been a central part of Norwegian national security policy,” she wrote in an article published in Norwegian newspapers. “Norway would have welcomed a more systematic training cooperation with the USA irrespectively of national security situation.”

Søreide admits, however, that the displacement of the soldiers comes after an American initiative.

According to the deal, U.S. Marines will be based in Værnes, but engage in training also also other parts of the country.

“In a crisis situation, Norway will be dependent of allied reinforcements, and our allies must therefore come to us to get knowledge about how to operate here and and with us,” the minister says in the article.

“It is all in line with the long lines in Norwegian defense policy and is reflected in the Government’s proposed long-term plan for the defense sector.”