US confirms it will place 250 tanks in eastern Europe to counter Russian threat
Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland will host equipment, says Ash Carter, the US defence secretary
The United States will place 250 tanks, artillery pieces and fighting vehicles in seven eastern European countries as a bulwark against Russian aggression, it was confirmed on Tuesday.
Ash Carter, the US defence secretary, said Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland will host equipment in order to reassure Nato countries alarmed by Russian action in Ukraine.
“We will temporarily stage one armoured brigade combat team’s vehicles and associated equipment in countries in central and eastern Europe,” Mr Carter said at a joint press conference with three Baltic defence ministers.
After Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region last year, Nato leaders agreed to step up exercises and rotations of forces through Nato allies in eastern Europe as well as storing hardware there for use in an emergency.
Reports of the deployment triggered a furious response from Moscow earlier this week, and came after Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, announced he would 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal.
The equipment will include 250 tanks, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled howitzers.
The amount of equipment that would be temporarily stored in each country will be enough to supply either a company, of around 150 soldiers, or a battalion, of about 750 soldiers.
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Nato, the defence alliance, is in the process of building six new bases in eastern Europe to host rapid-response forces that are capable of reacting within three days to any threat.
Mr Carter is also expected on Wednesday to announce the United States will send heavy lifting aircraft to move European Nato forces to trouble spots near the Russian border.
Seven states have promised to contribute soldiers to the rapid-reaction force on a rolling basis.
Since the Minsk negotiations committed Russia to withdrawing from Ukraine in February, more than 1,000 tanks, surface-to-air missile systems and other heavy weapons have crossed the border, according to Nato sources.
Meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, defence ministers will discuss how the alliance can respond to “hybrid warfare”, of the kind seen in Ukraine, in which Russian-tied separatists known as “little green men” appeared to be acting independently of Moscow.
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