Russia says will retaliate if US weapons stationed on its borders
Updated: 2015-06-16 10:00
The Pentagon said on Monday the US military was in the process of deciding where to store a battalion's worth of military equipment in Europe. The decision is part of a long-term effort to maintain equipment for a heavy brigade in the region to facilitate US rotational training with NATO allies.
"This is purely positioning of equipment to better facilitate our ability to conduct training," said Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, noting that two battalions of equipment already was stored there.
Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, commander of the US Army in Europe, told Reuters in December the equipment set for the full brigade would be about 160 M-1 tanks plus M-2 Bradley fighting vehicles and self-propelled howitzers. A Pentagon official said on Monday the total number of vehicles would be about 220.
US officials said a proposal under review envisages storing a company's worth of equipment, enough for 150 soldiers, in each of the three Baltic nations: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Enough equipment for a company or possibly a battalion, or about 750 soldiers, would also be located in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Hungary.
The idea was that, in the event of an attack on NATO's eastern border, the United States could quickly fly in troops who would use the equipment, cutting out the weeks or months it would take to transport convoys of gear overland across Europe.
However, the US proposal could cause tensions within NATO, an alliance that often struggles to accommodate more hawkish members such as Poland or Lithuania alongside other states that want to avoid a military stand-off with Russia at any cost.
Speaking after talks in Warsaw with the US Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, Polish Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said he expected a final US decision on the equipment within a few weeks.
"They know how important this is to us, because we want to build a permanent US presence, the allied army here on the Polish territory," Siemoniak told reporters.
"It seems to me that such enterprises, that is equipment warehouses, are a very crucial step when it comes to building such a presence."
A spokesman for Lithuania's foreign ministry, Kestutis Vaskelevicius, said any increased NATO presence was intended to improve the security of the Baltic states. "(It) is not directed against anyone, and it does not threaten anyone," he said.