Classified Norwegian cave system hosts combat equipment for 15,000 Marines
US deploys tanks and equipment to classified Cold War-era caves in Norway near the NATO-Russia frontier
The United States wants to deploy Marines at a base in Norway only 60 miles from Russia.
If the proposal is approved by the Norwegian government, a rotating force of 300 Marines would be deployed at Vaernes, an air station located outside the city of Trondheim near the Russian border.
The request was confirmed in a statement from the commanding officer of Marine Forces in Europe.
“We enjoy a very close relationship with the Norwegian Armed Forces and a limited rotational presence in Norway would certainly enhance this relationship and our ability to operate together,” Major General Niel E. Nelson, commander of US Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, said in a statement. “If approved by the Norwegian government, a Marine Corps presence in Norway will increase NATO’s ability to rapidly aggregate and employ forces in northern Europe.”
A spokesman for the Norwegian Defense Ministry, Lars Gjemble, said “the Unites States is a long-term and close ally to Norway.”
“US participation in military exercises and training in Norway is one element in this long-standing and close security policy relationship,” he added. “Considerations about how to tailor allied exercise activity in Norway is a continuous effort.”
“A limited rotational US Marine Corps presence in Norway is a possible option currently being considered. Even though dialogue has been ongoing at the military level, the process at the political level is still ongoing…”
Norway, a member of NATO, already hosts a significant amount of pre-positioned military equipment in climate-controlled caves across the country in preparation for possible war with Russia.
Maintained by a crew of 100 Americans and Norwegians, the complex houses enough combat equipment to support 15,000 Marines.
The cave complex was used during the last decade of the Cold War, but the United States questioned whether or not to continue maintaining the complex following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Norwegian government ultimately decided to pick up the costs of maintenance.
“Any gear that is forward-deployed both reduces cost and speeds up our ability to support operations in crisis, so we’re able to fall in on gear that is ready-to-go and respond to whatever that crisis may be,” said Colonel William Bentley, operations officer for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
The deployment of NATO forces to Norway is clearly a provocative act directed at Russia. Norway shares a 121 mile border with Russia, while the Russian Northern Fleet is based in the Murmansk Oblast, approximately 100 miles from the border.