A force of some 300 U.S. Marines hit the ground in Norway on Monday, marking the second major American deployment near Russian borders this month.
The Marines based out of Camp Lejune in North Carolina will be in the Arctic nation for a year-long rotation at Vaernes military base, roughly 900 miles from Russia’s border. It is the first American military deployment to Norway since World War II.
It comes less than a week after 3,000 U.S. troops arrived in Poland and other Baltic nations as part of NATO’s Operation Atlantic Resolve, which is viewed by the Kremlin as a direct threat to Russia’s expanding authority and influence in the region.
The Norway deployment, first announced in October, will focus on training for joint combat operations and arctic warfare, Norwegian Home Guards spokesman Rune Haarstad told Reuters Monday.
Russian diplomats lashed out at the U.S. troop presence, demanding Oslo explain the military benefits of the American presence in the country, other than to antagonize Moscow.
“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 military potential, in particular through stationing of American forces,” Russian embassy officials said in a statement to Reuters.
In May, Russian military commanders announced plans to three newly created military divisions to protect its southern and western borders.
Totaling roughly 30,000 troops, the mission for those new divisions would be to counteract American and NATO troop buildups in the region, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in an interview at the time with state-run media outlets.