Norway has been warned by a senior Russian politician that it could now be a nuclear target after it allowed for the deployment of 330 US Marines.
Frants Klintsevich, a deputy chairman of Russia’s defence and security committee, said the deployment of US Marines at Værnes was part of a US build-up and made Norway fair game in the event of a nuclear confrontation.
Mr Klintsevich told Russia’s TV2 channel the Kremlin viewed the 330 Marines in Norway as a direct military threat.
Norway joined Nato in 1949 but only after giving what was then the Soviet Union an assurance they would never allow foreign troops to be stationed there.
The Local newspaper reported Mr Klintsevich said of the deployment of US Marines:’This is very dangerous for Norway and Norwegians.
‘How should we react to this? We have never before had Norway on the list of targets for our strategic weapons. But if this develops, Norway’s population will suffer.’
‘Because we need to react against definitive military threats. And we have things to react to, I might as well tell it like it is.’
Norway’s defence minister, Ine Eriksen Søreide, has rejected Russia’s criticisms and said the deployment at Værnes, near Trondheim – about 700 miles from the Russian border – which is only a test run which will be reconsidered next year.
She said: ‘There is no objective reason for the Russians to react to this. But the Russians are reacting at the moment in the same way toward almost everything the Nato countries are doing.’
Major General Niel Nelson, commander of US Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, said the deployments would provide an opportunity for the corps to train directly with Norwegian troops.
‘Having a rotational presence in Norway enhances the collective ability of our two forces to work together,’ he told the Marine Corps Times.
Unlike neighbouring Sweden, which passionately defends its neutrality, Norway has long been a base for Nato troops who require special cold climate training.
During World War II the country was occupied by the Germans but had an active resistance that worked closely with the British.
In 1944 the Red Army invaded Norway’s northernmost province, Finnmark, but handed it over to Norway when the war ended.
Meanwhile Russian submarines have been detected in the Irish Sea as tensions rise between Moscow and Britain over the Kremlin’s aggression in Syria and Eastern Europe.
A Russian flotilla of battleships is making its way through the Mediterranean on its way to support a fresh attack on Aleppo by the Assad regime, and it is believed the submarines were going to join them.
Relations between Nato and Russia is extremely tense, with both sides accusing the other of making aggressive military moves.