Trump was asked about a Marine general’s prediction that a ‘big-ass fight’ is coming and said ‘maybe he knows something that I don’t know’

US President Donald Trump holds a joint news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in the East Room of the White House in Washington, January 10, 2018.

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US President Donald Trump holds a joint news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in the East Room of the White House in Washington, January 10, 2018.
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REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

  • The Marine Corps commandant predicted a “big-ass fight” on the horizon and suggested the US military may soon shift its focus from the Middle East.
  • Asked about that comment, President Donald Trump touted his planned military buildup and spoke approvingly of talks with North Korea.
  • Marines have been stationed in Norway for the past year, and NATO has deployed troops to Eastern Europe amid deepening tensions with Russia.

During a press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg on Wednesday, President Donald Trump was asked about Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller’s remarks about a “big-ass fight” coming in the future.

Trump didn’t appear to be aware of Neller’s remark – which had been delivered during an address to Marines stationed in Norway and first reported by Hope Hodge Seck of Military.com – saying, “Well, maybe he knows something that I don’t know, OK?”

The president then spoke at length about the military buildup he plans to pursue, though there has been little concrete action on it. Trump also expressed satisfaction with the state of talks between North and South Korea.

“I would say this … we have a very, very powerful military. We’re getting more powerful by the month, by the day,” Trump said. He said the US was ordering much of the same equipment Norway was ordering, “but in larger amounts, to put it mildly.”

US Marines with Marine Rotational Force Europe get a lecture on the Norwegian tank in Porsangmoen, Norway, March 7, 2017.

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US Marines with Marine Rotational Force Europe get a lecture on the Norwegian tank in Porsangmoen, Norway, March 7, 2017.
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US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Victoria Ross

“We are building up out military to a point that we’ve never been before. We’re also … we were very much weakened over the last long period of time, but not with me,” Trump said.

“No, I don’t expect [war]. I think we’re going to have … because of strength, peace through strength. I think we’re going to have a long period of peace. I hope we do.”

He then turned to the subject of North Korea, saying there were “a lot of good talks” going on and that South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s representatives “had a great, great meeting, and I had some very good feedback from that. So hopefully a lot of good things are going to work out.”

“No, I think that we will have peace through strength. Our military will be stronger than it ever was in a very short period of time, and that’s my opinion,” Trump said. “That’s not the general’s opinion, but I think my opinion counts more right now.”

Norway has become an important operating area for the Marines

During his December trip to Norway, Neller told Marines, “I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming” and suggested the US military could soon shift its focus from the Middle East and toward the Pacific and Russia.

Norway has become an important operating area for US Marines, who have deployed two rotational forces to the country over the past year. Those forces have done exercises with Norwegian forces, but Marines have long stationed equipment in the country. Moscow has found the Marines’ recent presence in Norway particularly irksome.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller, left, speaks with a Norwegian army soldier in Setermoen, Norway, September 28, 2017.

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Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller, left, speaks with a Norwegian army soldier in Setermoen, Norway, September 28, 2017.
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(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Samantha K. Braun)

Russia and the Pacific are two areas highlighted by Trump’s national security strategy and home to three parts of the Defense Department’s “4+1” framework: Russia, North Korea, and China (along with Iran and global terrorism).

Norway, along with other countries in Europe, has grown increasingly concerned with assertive Russian behavior in the region.

Like others in Europe, Oslo has boosted its defense spending, in part by shifting funds from cost-savings programs to military acquisitions. Some in Norway have questioned the government about its defense strategy.

Over the past year, Norway has ordered 40 F-35 fighters and expressed interest in 12 more; partnered with Germany to buy four new submarines – two for each; purchased five P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft, and signed a contract for 24 South Korean-made K9 self-propelled howitzers. Norwegian officials have also publicly discussed ways to counter the Russian military’s armor.