As NATO prepares for its biggest military drills in more than 10 years, elements of the U.S. Marine Corps are preparing a rehearsal amphibious landing on Iceland before performing it for real on the beaches of Norway during the upcoming Trident Juncture exercise.
Some 2,000 Marines and sailors with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked recently on the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima and are currently headed towards NATO’s extreme north to prepare for their amphibious assault, the Marine Corps Times reported.
During a 10 October media event, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller would not speculate on anyone’s perception of the planned amphibious landings during Trident Juncture, except to say the exercise — which is expected to feature some 40,000 NATO personnel — has been years in the planning.
Some have drawn a comparison between the Marine landings and a mid-1980s-era book by the late Tom Clancy, “Red Storm Rising, a World War III-scenario featuring a Soviet assault on Iceland.
Analysis: The scenario laid out expertly by Clancy in his book is not as far-fetched as some may believe. After all, if NATO and the Pentagon are rehearsing the retaking of Iceland from Russian forces, then obviously someone believes it’s possible.
In terms of strategic interests, not much has changed since the end of the Cold War. NATO still maintains its air base and other assets at Keflavík, a base focused primarily on hunting submarines. It would have been strategically important for the Soviet Union to open the Greenland, Iceland and the United Kingdom, or GIUK gap — so Moscow’s naval and submarine forces could directly access the Atlantic Ocean.
That gap is just as important today to Moscow if the objective is to take real estate in Europe — say, the Baltics, Poland, or other eastern European enclaves. The U.S. would have to reinforce Europe via the Atlantic Ocean, so it would certainly be in the Kremlin’s strategic interests to put as many subs as possible in those waters to sink American and Canadian transports.
In fact, in 2014, Soviet and Russian military expert Phillip Petersen wrote a report for the Defense Department entitled, “The Northwestern TVD in Soviet Operational-Strategic Planning.” In it, he lays out how Russian forces could attack the Scandinavian countries and how NATO could retake them. A Marine amphibious assault was included in his planning.
Primarily, however, Petersen said the best way to prevent a Russian attack was to reinforce Iceland and upgrade its facilities, which is what the U.S. and NATO are both currently doing. The Pentagon is spending $14 million to upgrade hangars for its new sub-hunting P-8 Poseidon aircraft, among other improvements.
The alliance understands that Russian threats involve a number of Russian scenarios. This is obviously one of them.