The U.S. Marines are strategically placing tanks and military equipment inside classified Norwegian caves in efforts to support any possibility of crisis at the NATO-Russian border.
The preplacement of tanks, artillery and logistics equipment comes during renewed tensions between NATO and Russia. In a statement delivered on Friday, Col. William Bentley, operations officer for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade said: “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.”
CNN reports Feb. 18 that the NATO-Russian border was heavily militarized during the Cold War. Continuing those efforts, Russian president Vladimir Putin is flexing his military muscle, creating three new divisions in the western border alone, and making five nuclear missile regimens ready for battle within the year.
The U.S. began stocking the climate controlled caves in 1981 during the Cold War. The stock was primarily meant to help NATO defend against the Soviet Union. When the Cold War ended, the U.S. reevaluated whether it was necessary to maintain those facilities, but the Norwegian government took on the costs of maintaining them in the 1990s.
There is enough equipment in these caves to support 15,000 Marines. And the equipment has not been sitting their latent. The equipment was reportedly used to aid in operations in Iraq.
Because of renewed tensions at the NATO-Russian border, the caves are again a strategic asset. “Now that we have a very new security context with Russia, it now makes sense to rethink what is needed,” Heather Conley, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Europe Program told CNN.
More than 16,000 troops are training this month along with NATO allies and partners, using equipment from the classified caves. The development of military capabilities “in a challenging environment” is the goal. The exercise is called “Cold Response 16” and will ensure confidence that NATO and its participating allies will be able to defend the border.
More military equipment is on the way, with six F-15s due to arrive in Finland in time for the spring exercises. The exercises will occur about 100 miles away from the Russian border.
The Department of Defense is spending $3.4 billion in efforts to prevent Russia’s pending violence against NATO and its allies in the European Reassurance Initiative. In the initiative, military equipment will be stationed in the Baltic Seas, Poland and Central Europe. “We have to look at Northern Europe, the Northern Atlantic, the Baltics and Eastern Europe as one theater of operations,” states Conley. She further states that military exercises are becoming critical.
Russia’s Northern Fleet recently conducted military drills involving 38,000 troops. Their drills were unannounced.