A Marine Corps commandant on Thursday warned U.S. troops stationed in Norway to be prepared for a coming war.
“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Gen. Robert Neller told them. “You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”
"I hope I'm wrong, but there's a war coming. You're in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence."
Neller pointed to the near future possibility of Russia and the Pacific theater being the next major areas of conflict.
Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green sounded a similar tone.
"Just remember why you're here," Green said. "They're watching. Just like you watch them, they watch you. We've got 300 Marines up here; we could go from 300 to 3,000 overnight. We could raise the bar."
The warnings came a day before Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., that "storm clouds are gathering" over the Korean Peninsula.
Last spring, Mattis warned Congress that no enemy "in the field has done more to harm the combat readiness of our military than sequestration.”
Whether Neller's comments were more than motivational rhetoric remained unclear.
"Just remember why you're here. They're watching. Just like you watch them, they watch you. We've got 300 Marines up here; we could go from 300 to 3,000 overnight. We could raise the bar."
Neller and Green's arrival in Norway coincided with heightened tensions between the U.S. and its NATO allies and Russia. According to Military.com, Russia warned Norway that its decision to host a new unit of U.S. troops through the end of 2018 would negatively affect relations.
Norway has insisted having U.S. troops stationed there is merely part of an effort to enhance ties with NATO allies and conduct cold-weather combat operations.
At a Q&A session with the troops in the Norwegian Home Guard base near Trondheim, Neller said that the U.S. could shift its focus from the Middle East to Eastern Europe, citing Russia’s conflicts with Ukraine and Georgia as justification. He told the Marines that they should be prepared for a “big-ass fight” on the horizon.
Russia has reportedly been uneasy about the presence of American troops close to its borders. The 300 U.S. Marines deployed to Norway in January 2017 were the first foreign troops allowed to be stationed in the country since World War II.
In September of this year, Russia conducted a joint-military exercise with neighboring Belarus that involved 12,700 troops.
A new National Security Strategy unveiled by the Trump administration on Monday singled out Russia and China as two world powers challenging “American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.”