U.S. SENDS TANKS, MILITARY EQUIPMENT TO DETER RUSSIAN AGGRESSION

Wall Street Journal on June 23, 2015, reported that military equipment will go to temporary bases in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. Excerpts below:

The U.S. is sending tanks, heavy artillery and other equipment to countries across the Baltics to bolster their security and deter Russia from attempting another incursion within the region, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in Eastonia.

The surge of equipment, including a total of 250 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and self-propelled howitzers along with 900 vehicles and other equipment, is the latest U.S. response to Moscow as Washington pushes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to strike a more assertive profile in an increasingly jittery region.

The equipment is headed to temporary storage sites in six nations, including Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, Mr. Carter said at a press briefing in a hotel here. He was flanked at the briefing by counterparts from three of the Baltic nations most anxious about Russian aggression: Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

A day earlier, Mr. Carter announced a separate suite of U.S. military gear and weaponry for a new NATO rapid response force, and has emerged as a key agent of Washington’s response to Mr. Putin.

In announcing the pre-positioning of U.S. military gear throughout the region, Mr. Carter was fulfilling a plan that has been developed over the last several months. The equipment will be stored at a series of sites across those nations and hauled out by U.S. troops for a continuing series of exercises the U.S. and other nations have been conducting in the region.

“American rotational forces need to more quickly and easily participate in training and exercises in Europe,” Mr. Carter told reporters here Tuesday. “The significance of this is that it allow us to do more training, more exercises, and with more forces than we’d otherwise do.”

The equipment amounts to an American brigade’s worth of gear—no match for a Russian force should President Vladimir Putin opt to strike into a neighboring country again.

During a five-day, three-stop swing through Europe that includes Estonia, Germany and Belgium, Mr. Carter has made a point of saying that Mr. Putin’s belligerence in the region is returning Russia to the past. But in response, the U.S., the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other allies must scrap the “Cold War playbook” and think anew about the array of security challenges posed by Moscow.

Mr. Putin last week announced that he would locate 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles in the region, adding to regional anxieties. It also has increased flights of nuclear-capable bombers.

“We’re talking about 250 armored vehicles, tanks, Bradleys and howitzers that would not fill up the parking lot of your average high school and they will be distributed in formations in several different countries,” said the official. “That’s the scale we’re talking about.”

The official noted that a typical Russian exercise can equate to tens of thousands of troops. “It’s useful to keep in mind the right context about who’s being provocative and who’s not,” the official said.

There are currently about 65,000 American service members permanently stationed in Europe, primarily in Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Belgium. The Pentagon would primarily draw from forces already based in Europe to use the newly pre-positioned military gear.

Part of the idea of the plan is to save time and shipping costs for the Pentagon, which has had to move equipment for each exercise. But more critically, basing the equipment at the sites also helps demonstrate American resolve in the region to counter Russian aggression since Moscow annexed Crimea inside Ukraine last year.

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