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Thread: U.S. Is Poised to Put Heavy Weaponry in Eastern Europe

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    Lightbulb U.S. Is Poised to Put Heavy Weaponry in Eastern Europe

    U.S. Is Poised to Put Heavy Weaponry in Eastern Europe

    June 13, 2015

    In a significant move to deter possible Russian aggression in Europe, the Pentagon is poised to store battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 American troops in several Baltic and Eastern European countries, American and allied officials say.

    The proposal, if approved, would represent the first time since the end of the Cold War that the United States has stationed heavy military equipment in the newer NATO member nations in Eastern Europe that had once been part of the Soviet sphere of influence. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine have caused alarm and prompted new military planning in NATO capitals.

    It would be the most prominent of a series of moves the United States and NATO have taken to bolster forces in the region and send a clear message of resolve to allies and to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, that the United States would defend the alliance’s members closest to the Russian frontier.

    After the expansion of NATO to include the Baltic nations in 2004, the United States and its allies avoided the permanent stationing of equipment or troops in the east as they sought varying forms of partnership with Russia.

    “This is a very meaningful shift in policy,” said James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral and the former supreme allied commander of NATO, who is now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. “It provides a reasonable level of reassurance to jittery allies, although nothing is as good as troops stationed full-time on the ground, of course.”

    The amount of equipment included in the planning is small compared with what Russia could bring to bear against the NATO nations on or near its borders, but it would serve as a credible sign of American commitment, acting as a deterrent the way that the Berlin Brigade did after the Berlin Wall crisis in 1961.

    “It’s like taking NATO back to the future,” said Julianne Smith, a former defense and White House official who is now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a vice president at the consulting firm Beacon Global Strategies.

    The “prepositioned” stocks — to be stored on allied bases and enough to equip a brigade of 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers — also would be similar to what the United States maintained in Kuwait for more than a decade after Iraq invaded it in 1990 and was expelled by American and allied forces early the next year.

    The Pentagon’s proposal still requires approval by Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and the White House. And political hurdles remain, as the significance of the potential step has stirred concern among some NATO allies about Russia’s reaction to a buildup of equipment.

    “The U.S. military continues to review the best location to store these materials in consultation with our allies,” said Col. Steven H. Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. “At this time, we have made no decision about if or when to move to this equipment.”

    Senior officials briefed on the proposals, who described the internal military planning on the condition of anonymity, said that they expected approval to come before the NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels this month.

    The current proposal falls short of permanently assigning United States troops to the Baltics — something that senior officials of those countries recently requested in a letter to NATO. Even so, officials in those countries say they welcome the proposal to ship at least the equipment forward.

    “We need the prepositioned equipment because if something happens, we’ll need additional armaments, equipment and ammunition,” Raimonds Vejonis, Latvia’s minister of defense, said in an interview at his office here last week.

    “If something happens, we can’t wait days or weeks for more equipment,” said Mr. Vejonis, who will become Latvia’s president in July. “We need to react immediately.”

    Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University who has written extensively on Russia’s military and security services, noted, “Tanks on the ground, even if they haven’t people in them, make for a significant marker.”

    As the proposal stands now, a company’s worth of equipment — enough for about 150 soldiers — would be stored in each of the three Baltic nations: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Enough for a company or possibly a battalion — about 750 soldiers — would be located in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Hungary, they said.

    American military specialists have conducted site surveys in the countries under consideration, and the Pentagon is working on estimates about the costs to upgrade railways, build new warehouses and equipment-cleaning facilities, and to replace other Soviet-era facilities to accommodate the heavy American weaponry. The weapons warehouses would be guarded by local or security contractors, and not by American military personnel, officials said.

    Positioning the equipment forward saves the United States Army time, money and resources, and avoids having to ship the equipment back and forth to the United States each time an Army unit travels to Europe to train. A full brigade’s worth of equipment — formally called the European Activity Set — would include about 1,200 vehicles, including some 250 M1-A2 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, and armored howitzers, according to a senior military official.

    The Army previously said after the invasion of Crimea last year that it would expand the amount of equipment it stored at the Grafenwöhr training range in southeastern Germany and at other sites to a brigade from a battalion. An interim step would be prepositioning the additional weapons and vehicles in Germany ahead of decisions to move them farther east.

    Army units — currently a battalion from the Third Infantry Division — now fly into the range on regular rotations, using the same equipment left in place. They train with the equipment there or take it to exercises elsewhere in Europe.

    Continue reading the main story

    That, along with stepped-up air patrolling and training exercises on NATO’s eastern flank, was among the initial measures approved by NATO’s leaders at their summit meeting in Wales last year. The Pentagon’s proposal reflects a realization that the tensions with Russia are unlikely to diminish soon.

    “We have to transition from what was a series of temporary decisions made last year,” said Heather A. Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

    The idea of moving prepositioned weapons and materials to the Baltics and Eastern Europe has been discussed before, but never carried out because it would be viewed by the Kremlin as a violation of the spirit of the 1997 agreement between NATO and Russia that laid the foundation for cooperation.

    In that agreement, NATO pledged that, “in the current and foreseeable security environment,” it would not seek “additional permanent stationing of substantial ground combat forces” in the nations closer to Russia.

    The agreement also says that “NATO and Russia do not consider each other as adversaries.” Many in the alliance argue that Russia’s increasingly aggressive actions around NATO’s borders have made that pact effectively moot.

    The Pentagon’s proposal has gained new support because of fears among the eastern NATO allies that they could face a Russian threat.

    “This is essentially about politics,” Professor Galeotti said. “This is about telling Russia that you’re getting closer to a real red line.”

    In an interview before a visit to Italy this week, Mr. Putin dismissed fears of any Russian attack on NATO.

    “I think that only an insane person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO,” he told the newspaper Corriere Della Sera. “I think some countries are simply taking advantage of people’s fears with regard to Russia.”

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    Default Re: U.S. Is Poised to Put Heavy Weaponry in Eastern Europe

    Russia Warns Of 'New Military Confrontation' In Europe

    June 16, 2015

    Russia-West relations took a downturn this week when Moscow warned that any stationing of military equipment along its border with Europe could have "dangerous consequences" and President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would add more than 40 ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal this year.

    At a military and arms fair on Tuesday, Putin announced the addition of the intercontinental ballistic missiles which, he said, were able to overcome "even the most technically advanced anti-missile defense systems," Reuters reported.

    After the announcement, Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), said that Putin's statement was one reason why the international military alliance was upping its deterrence measures, according to Reuters.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry issued its warning on Monday against military presence on its western border after the New York Times and other media organizations reported that the U.S. had offered to store military equipment for up to 5,000 troops—including battle tanks and heavy weapons—in allied eastern European countries.

    "The emergence of such information confirms that the U.S., in cooperation with its allies, apparently has serious sights on ultimately undermining key provisions in the 'NATO Russia Founding Act' of 1997, in which the alliance pledged not to deploy substantial combat forces on the territory of the countries mentioned in the permanent basis," the ministry said in a statement on its website.

    "We hope, however, that reason will prevail and that the situation in Europe will be able to keep from sliding to a new military confrontation that could have dangerous consequences."

    An U.S. Pentagon official told the NYT that no decision had yet been made and that NATO, to which many European countries belong, would have to ratify such a move.

    "The U.S. military continues to review the best location to store these materials in consultation with our allies," said a Pentagon spokesman said, cited by the NYT. "At this time, we have made no decision about if or when to move to this equipment."

    Propaganda and Phobia

    Eastern European and Baltic states sharing a border with Russia—which include Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine—have become increasingly nervous about recent, seemingly provocative military exercises by Russia. This follows Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region last year, role in the pro-Russian uprising in Ukraine and subsequent sanctioning by the West.

    Nonetheless, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the proposed move by the U.S. to station military equipment along the border was part of a propaganda plot to turn Europe against Moscow.

    "Washington says the planned measures are needed to 'increase the confidence' of European allies in the face of the 'Russian threat,'" the ministry said.

    "In fact, capitals in both Washington and in Europe are aware that the 'Russian threat' is nothing more than a myth."

    The countries where military equipment could be stored include Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Estonia and possible Hungary. The plans could be decided upon when defense ministers from the 28 NATO member countries meet later in June.

    A Russian defense official was also quoted on Monday as saying that any U.S. plan to station tanks and heavy weapons in NATO states on Russia's border would be an "aggressive step," news agency Interfax reported.

    "If heavy U.S. military equipment, including tanks, artillery batteries and other equipment really does turn up in countries in eastern Europe and the Baltics, that will be the most aggressive step by the Pentagon and NATO since the Cold War," Russian defense ministry official General Yuri Yakubov said.

    He was also quoted as saying Moscow would retaliate by building up its own forces "on the Western strategic front."

    All about Ukraine

    With the war of words between the U.S. and Russia threatening to descend into something nastier, Ian Bremmer, president of risk consultancy Eurasia Group, said the geo-political tension was very much focused on Ukraine.

    "We have seen a ceasefire in Ukraine that has not held, we have seen an escalation in Russian war material in east Ukraine, we've seen casualties in the last few weeks and expanded Russian military exercises on the border as well as more Russian troops," he told CNBC Europe's "Squawk Box."

    "From the western perspective it does seem laughable that Russia would talks about the greatest escalation by the Americans potentially putting tanks in the Baltics, which still hasn't been approved by NATO as a whole, when Russia is putting tanks in countries that don't want those tanks there. This is very much about Ukraine."

    Moscow has also accused the U.S. of being responsible for the political uprising in Ukraine in 2014 that preceded the annexation of Crimea, in which the pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych was ousted.

    "It is convenient to use propaganda to cover up the responsibility of the U.S. for the anti-constitutional coup in Ukraine and in Kiev," said the Russian Foreign Ministry in its statement.

    "The U.S. has assiduously nurtured an anti-Russian among its European allies in order to take advantage of the current difficult moment for the further expansion of its military presence."

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    Default Re: U.S. Is Poised to Put Heavy Weaponry in Eastern Europe

    US Sends Arsenal To Poland In Military Operation Over Russia Invasion Fears

    The US Army has delivered an arsenal of tanks and military equipment to Poland as part of an operation to challenge Russian power.

    September 13, 2017

    A terrifying array of weaponry arrived in the city of Gdansk on Wednesday when the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, rolled in.

    The deployment is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a project to shore-up NATO forces in eastern Europe after Russia annexed the Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

    Coupled with battalions in the Baltics, the build-up has been described as NATO’s largest reinforcement in eastern Europe since the Cold War.

    Master Sergeant Brent Williams told Stars and Stripes: “This will be the first time two armoured brigades transition within the European theatre sending a full complement of soldiers and equipment into Germany and Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.”

    It comes over concerns that Russia may be eyeing another land grab in eastern Europe.

    In a show of power, Moscow is carrying out a range of military exercises in Belarus, the Baltic Sea and its Kalingrad enclave over the coming days.

    And NATO believes the drills could involve around 100,000 troops and include nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

    Officials think the drills will simulate a conflict with the US-led alliance intended to show Russia's ability to mass large numbers of troops at very short notice in the event of a conflict.

    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week during a visit to an Estonian army base where British troops have been stationed since March that the alliance remained “calm and vigilant”.

    Lithuania's Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis has voiced concerns that Russia’s drills risk triggering an accidental conflict or could allow Moscow to leave troops in neighbouring Belarus.

    He said: ”We can't be totally calm. There is a large foreign army massed next to Lithuanian territory.”

    Some Western officials including the head of the US Army in Europe, General Ben Hodges, have raised concerns that Russia might use the drills as a "Trojan horse" to make incursions into Poland and Russian-speaking regions in the Baltics.

    The Kremlin has rejected the suggestions. Russia says some 13,000 troops from Russia and Belarus will be involved in the September 14 to September 20 drills, below an international threshold that requires large numbers of outside observers.

    NATO will send three experts to so-called 'visitor days' during the exercises, but a NATO official said these were no substitute for meeting internationally-agreed norms at such exercises that include talking to soldiers and briefings.

    The alliance say they have been watching Russia's preparations for months, including the use of hundreds of rail cars to carry tanks and other heavy equipment into Belarus.

    As a precaution, the US Army has moved 600 paratroopers to the Baltics and has taken over guardianship of the airspace of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which lack capable air forces and air defence systems.

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