Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway at the US Marine Corps Forces European Command has assured Norway that despite the restructuring of the US Marine Corps, which may have consequences for the allies' defensive capabilities, the US still promises to fully support Norway and meet it obligations.
“We will continue to develop our strong security cooperation with Norway,” Rankine-Galloway told the newspaper Klassekampen.
He added that American participation in Norwegian exercises will increase, while the continuous presence will be made more dynamic.
“We expect to send about 400 marines to Norway by the end of the autumn this year and around 1,000 marines in early 2021,” he said.
The plan for the US Marine Corps goes by the name “Force Design 2030”. The changes have occurred as a result of the naval corps in the future aligning itself as a maritime force and no longer prioritising land combat, Klassekampen reported.
More specifically, the primary aim of the corps will be to handle military missions in the South China Sea. Among other things, the changes mean that the force will get rid of its tanks and much of its field equipment. In addition, the number of soldiers will be cut by 12,000.
Norwegian Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen confirmed that the US presence in the country will be more dynamic.
“It can be both a lower and a higher number than the 700 US marines, who have been present on a rotating basis in recent years. During large drills, there may be more personnel, but in the intervening periods there will be fewer,” Bakke-Jensen told the newspaper Verdens Gang.
In recent years, around half of the 700 American soldiers have been stationed at Værnes in Trøndelag County, while the other half have been stationed at Setermoen in Troms County.
The presence of US Marines has been a perennial bone of discord between Oslo and Moscow amid mutual military build-ups. Moscow sees Norway's widening cooperation with the US and its NATO allies, which in addition to the marines includes numerous drills and an upgrade of polar radars in Vardø near the Kola Peninsula, as a provocation.