WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump isn’t preparing for a “big-ass fight” for American military personnel overseas in the near future.
On Wednesday, during a joint media appearance with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Trump was asked by a Norwegian reporter about comments made by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller during a visit to Norway’s Vaernes Garrison days before Christmas.
In remarks reported by Military.com, Neller implored Marines on rotation in the country to be ready for a “big-ass fight” at all times.
"I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller continued. “You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”
The comments drew quick clarification from Marine Corps officials, who said the goal was to inspire U.S. troops and did not refer to a specific threat. But they raised enough concerns to prompt a question during Wednesday’s news event, where Trump dismissed them.
“Maybe he knows something I don’t know,” Trump quipped. “We have a powerful military, we’re getting more powerful by the day … but I don’t expect that.”
Trump repeated his national security strategy of “peace through strength” and said he believes a build-up of U.S. military equipment and personnel will discourage potential adversaries from attacking America or its allies.
“I think we’re going to have a long period of peace,” he said. “I hope we do.”
“That’s my opinion, that’s not the general’s opinion, but I think mine counts more.”
While not directly addressing Neller’s comments, Solberg said she welcomed the U.S. troops training with Norwegian forces to ensure that both countries are prepared for future threats.
About 300 U.S. Marines are stationed at the Norwegian base in support of training and support missions. After Neller’s comments, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green told troops there that if threats dictated a change in mission, “we could go from 300 to 3,000 overnight.”
Earlier in the day, Trump praised Norway as a “great customer” of American-made military equipment, as well as “a great ally and great friend.”
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.