Some 300 U.S. landed in Norway on Monday for a six-month deployment, the first time since World War Two that foreign have been allowed to be stationed there, in a deployment which has irked Norway’s Arctic neighbor Russia.
Officials played down any link between the operation and NATO concerns over Russia, but the deployment coincides with the U.S. sending several thousand to Poland to beef up its Eastern European allies worried about Moscow’s assertiveness.
from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina landed a little after 10 am CET (0900 GMT) at a snow-covered Vaernes airport near Trondheim, Norway’s third-largest city, where temperatures were reaching -2 degrees Celsius (28 degrees Fahrenheit).
U.S. are to stay in Norway for a year, with the current batch of being replaced after their six-month tour is complete.
A spokesman for the Norwegian Home Guards, who will host the at the Vaernes base, about 1,500 km (900 miles) from the Russian border, said the U.S. will learn about winter warfare.
“For the first four weeks they will have basic winter training, learn how to cope with skis and to survive in the Arctic environment,” said Rune Haarstad, a Home Guard spokesman. “It has nothing to do with Russia or the current situation.”
In March the will take part in the Joint Viking exercises, which will also include British , he added.
The Russian Embassy in Oslo did not immediately reply to a request for comment by Reuters on Monday. It questioned the need for such a move when it was announced in October.
“Taking into account multiple statements of Norwegian officials about the absence of threat from Russia to Norway we would like to understand for what purposes is Norway so … willing to increase its potential, in particular through stationing of American forces in Vaernes?” it told Reuters at the time.
A spokeswoman for Norwegian Ministry of Defence also said the arrival of U.S. had nothing to do with concerns about Russia.
However, in a 2014 interview with Reuters, Norway’s Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said Russia’s annexation of Crimea showed that it had the ability and will to use means to achieve political goals.