Russia on Thursday vowed in a statement that it is going to retaliate to a plan by Norway to double the number of U.S. Marines stationed there.
Oslo on Tuesday announced that it would ask from the United States, its NATO ally, to send an additional 700 Marines to train in Norway in 2019, adding that the additional troops would be based closer to the Russian border. At the moment there are 330 U.S. soldiers stationed in Norway.
“This makes Norway less predictable and could cause growing tensions, triggering an arms race and destabilizing the situation in northern Europe,” the Russian Embassy said in a statement on its Facebook page. “We see it as clearly unfriendly, and it will not remain free of consequence.”
According to Reuters, Oslo is becoming more and more concerned about Russia since the Kremlin annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
However, Norway also announced that it does not regard its much larger neighbor as a direct threat.
The U.S. Marines stationed in Norway were scheduled to leave at the end of 2018 after an initial contingent arrived in January 2017 to train for winter conditions. The Marines are the first foreign troops to be stationed in Norway since World War II.
The initial decision to welcome the Marines was the reason why Moscow said it would worsen bilateral relations and escalate tensions on NATO’s northern flank.
On Wednesday, Russia’s Northern Fleet launched one of the largest naval exercises in the Arctic Barents Sea; as a response later this year, Norway will host its biggest NATO maneuver in decades.
Relations between Russia and the western civilizations have been deteriorating in recent years. The EU has regularly accused Russia of cyber warfare while the U.S. Congress accuses Moscow of interfering in the 2016 presidential election by doing voter suppression.