Showing solidarity to NATO allies against Russia’s annexation of Crimea the US is planning to send a Marine Corps unit equipped with tanks, light armoured vehicles and artillery to Bulgaria this fall.
The announcement came on Thursday from Brigadier General Norman L. Cooling, deputy commander of U.S. Marine Corps in Europe and Africa, who said that 155 Marines equipped with four Abrams main battle tanks, six light armoured vehicles and three howitzers are scheduled to be in the region stationed at the Novo Selo by early September, the Associated Press reported.
"It's certainly our intent to convince the Russians and Mr. Putin to refrain from aggression and return to the community of peaceful nations," Cooling said.
US Defence Secretary, Ash Carter, said on Monday that more US military equipment would be deployed in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Germany as NATO seeks to bolster its forces in Eastern Europe.
"We need to explain to those who doubt the value of our NATO commitments that the security of Europe is vital to everything else we hold dear," Carter added on his visit to Germany on Monday.
Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev met with Marcie B. Ries, US ambassador to Sofia after Carter's.
Following a meeting with the US ambassador, Nanchev said that his ministry did not receive an official proposal from the United States about the deployment of heavy military and also mentioned that no information or details were provided about the number and type of equipment, Independent Balkans News Agency reported.
Deputy Commander Cooling explained that within the next 18 months Bulgarian and allied troops would be trained and developed by US forces’ to have ability to operate saying "Ideally this culminates with integrated exercises with units from more and more allied nations that are able to call for fire from one another's artillery, our tanks manoeuvre in support of their infantry units, and vice versa."
The ultimate goal in introducing the combined arms company, like other measures sought by NATO and US, European Command, is to assure US allies protect their territorial integrity.
"With these tanks and artillery we will enhance the collective capability between the Marine Corps, our allies, and our international partners," said Capt. Richard Ulsh, a spokesman for Marine Corps Europe and Africa.
"This further emphasizes the stance we've maintained all along and that is that we will face security crises together, but now we can do it with tanks and artillery," added Ulsh
After the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers which was held on Thursday in Brussels, a statement released in relation to deploying to assist Allies in Eastern Europe said that “They (NATO states) will facilitate the rapid deployment of Allied forces to the region as required; support collective defence planning; and assist the coordination of multinational training and exercises.”
“Taking into account military advice on the establishment of additional NFIUs which is currently being developed, we will take a decision at our meeting in October.”