Although the U.S. Marine Corps would like to shift attention and capabilities from Europe to the Indo-Pacific region, the challenge in Europe posed by a revanchist Russia is a threat that the Corps must be prepared to address.
Russia’s actions in Ukraine have upended the long-held assumption that Russia is a logical, cautious, and risk-averse state that acts in its own interests. On the contrary, the invasion has proven Russia’s appetite for risk is considerably higher than virtually anyone imagined.
Exercise Cold Response 2022
Speaking to reporters in Norway during Exercise Cold Response 2022, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger, explained that despite the Corps’ attention to the east, they haven’t lost their familiarity with the threat posed by Russia and Russian forces.
"We have a clear understanding of what their capabilities are. And we've studied their doctrine for a long time," Berger told reporters, referencing the Soviet Union and now Russia’s tactics on the battlefield.
"Their decision-making on the part of the president, that's another factor, whether or not they would do something," he said, adding that he thinks “the lesson learned here is you can't predict what a dictator might do."
During Exercise Cold Response 2022, 30,000 troops—including 3,000 U.S. Marines—simulated a NATO response to an invasion of Norway by an unnamed outside country.
The Marines participating in the exercise practiced executing amphibious landings over contested airspace while also preparing for the logistical challenges of keeping those Marines fueled, fed, and supplied.
More Marines in Europe?
There are now more American service members deployed to Europe than at any other time in the past two decades. Berger said that there are also “Marines deployed in response to the conflict in Ukraine in many of the same countries” that have U.S. Army forces present.
General Berger demurred when asked if the Marine Corps would deploy more troops to Norway, which shares a border with Russia. Still, the situation remains fluid and could change in the future.
Although the Marine Corps would like to face the far more significant challenge of countering an increasingly aggressive China, doing so might take the Corps out of Europe.
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.