A US top commander has warned of an imminent war by pointing to a shift of focus on conflicts in the Middle East to Russia and the Pacific region.
General Robert Neller, the commander of the US Marine Corps stationed in Norway, announced the impending war on Thursday and called on his troops to be ready for redeployment as the US presence in the region would to be expanded.
“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller told the US forces during a visit to the Nordic country. “You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”
The top commander referred to Russia and the Pacific as the next major areas of conflict, predicting a “big-a** fight” in the future.
“I think probably the focus, the intended focus is not on the Middle East,” Neller said, when asked by a Marine about where the force saw itself fighting in the future. “The focus is more on the Pacific and Russia.”
While the Marine Corps commander admitted that the US troops would remain in the Middle East for some time to come, he pointed to “a slight pullback” from that region and a reorientation toward Russia and the Pacific.
“Just remember why you’re here,” he added. “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 comments were made amid tensions between Russia and NATO allies, with Moscow warning Oslo that the presence of American troops could hurt relations after the Nordic country decided to host a new unit of US soldiers through the end of 2018.
The deployment will strain already tense relations with Russia, as it goes against a vow made by Norway not to allow the deployment of foreign combat forces on its soil unless the country was under the threat of attack or for military drills.
Russia and NATO have had strained ties since conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine some three years ago. More than 10,000 have been killed in the war in Ukraine’s industrial east, where the Kiev government is fighting pro-Russia forces.
Russia has long been wary of NATO’s expansion eastward — toward Russia’s western borders. NATO has deployed around 4,000 troops, consisting of four battle groups, to Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland in recent years.
The US is also engaged in joint military drills mainly with South Korea and Japan in the Pacific region, as a show of force against North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missiles program.
North Korea, already concerned by the US’s permanent and heavy military presence in the region, has described the the drills as a “provocation.”