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‘There is a war coming’

The US Marine Corps' fresh rotational force at the Vaernes Garrison in Norway was told to prepare for a war with Russia by a visiting general, a military website reported.

Published: December 23, 2017, 8:20 am

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    When Gen. Robert Neller visited the Norwegian Home Guard base near Trondheim for his annual Christmas tour this year, he told the Marine rotational force that a “big-ass fight” was on the horizon.

    “I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller said. “You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”

    His visit to the 300-member unit was a new one for the tour. Neller told the Marines that he expects the Pacific and Russia to be the service’s operational focus points.

    Wars in the Middle East that have lasted some two decades, are winding down and he expects America to get involved in Europe and Asia.

    The United States claim that Russia presents a major threat and their position was re-emphasized in the new National Security Strategy released on Monday.

    According to the document, Russia is “using information tools” against other countries as well as force. “With its invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, Russia demonstrates its willingness to violate the sovereignty of states in the region,” the strategy states.

    But NATO – not Russia – has significantly expanded its military presence on Russia’s Western border over the past five years. The number of US engagement-ready troops has grown from 10 000 to 40 000.

    Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu noted on Friday at the annual extended meeting of the Defense Ministry Board: “Since 2012, the strength of NATO military contingents deployed at Russia’s western borders has grown three times. Four tactical groups of battalion level are a US armored brigade deployed in the Baltics and Poland, the staffs of international NATO divisions in Poland and Romania.”

    Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green reminded the Marines why they were in Norway. “Just remember why you’re here,” he said. “They’re watching. Just like you watch them, they watch you. We’ve got 300 Marines up here; we could go from 300 to 3,000 overnight. We could raise the bar.”

    Green did not name Russia, but he referred to its displeasure at the American presence. “They don’t like the fact that we oppose them, and we like the fact that they don’t like the fact that we oppose them,” Green boasted. “Three hundred of us, surrounded by them, we’ve got them right where we wanted, right? We’ve done this before.”

    Military.com found troops assigned to the unit had been instructed not to use the word “Russia” in interviews with the media during a visit in May because the rotational unit is in Norway at the invitation of the Norwegian government.

    Direct comments from American military staff could impact on the economic relationship that Norway enjoys with Russia, since the two countries share the same border.

    Norway’s opposition leaders have asked Prime Minister Erna Solberg to explain exactly what the American troops are doing in their country.

    Future high-visibility exercises hosted by the local military will include NATO’s Trident Juncture 2018. The exercise, which will involve about 35 000 troops from 30 countries, will focus on cold-climate military training.

    Although Norwegian officials said the deployment was part of a bilateral agreement between Oslo and Washington, in the case of a conflict, the troops would fall under NATO’s command.

    Hedda B. Langemyr of the Norwegian Peace Council, told the New York Times the deployment breached Norway’s tradition of not allowing permanent foreign troops on its soil.

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