Russia might retaliate US deployment of heavy weaponry

Moscow says Washington’s plan to deploy heavy weapons and tanks in NATO member states near its borders would be provocative to which it might retaliate by beefing up its military forces

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The United States' proposed plan to deploy heavy weapons as well as thousands of troops in the NATO’s Eastern European front would be the most dangerous act since the Cold War to which Russia could immediately retaliate by deploying its own forces, a Russian defence official said on Monday.

"If heavy US 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 Defence Ministry official General Yuri Yakubov said on Monday.

"Russia will have no option but to build up its forces and resources on the Western strategic front," Russian Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

The US was reportedly said to store heavy military equipment in a significant move to deter Russian aggression towards Eastern Europe where the regional government has long been worrying whether the Kremlin will target themselves after Ukraine.

According to a New York Times report on Saturday that  the Pentagon was poised to store battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 troops in the NATO member countries neighbouring to Russia.

Poland and the Baltic states, where peoples and politicians have been frustrated by the Russian military presence in Ukraine, welcomed the US decision to take a military lead against Russia with that they have been constituent states in the former Soviet Union.

Polish Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said on Monday after speaking with the US Navy Admiral Ray Mabus in Warsaw that he was expecting the US plan to reassure Euro-Atlantic allies in the region to be vitalised 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," he added.

But Yakubov said a Russian response to the US drive to militarise the region would be very harsh by speeding up the deployment of Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave in between Poland and Lithuania, and beefing up Russian military forces in Belarus which the only remaining taken for granted Russian ally in the Eastern Europe.

"Our hands are completely free to organise retaliatory steps to strengthen our Western frontiers," Yakubov said.

Since Moscow annexed Crimea and gave its military and political support to the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics inside Ukraine, the relations between Russia and the NATO allies had undergone to the level of Cold War era.

For the current level of the relations, the Kremlin blames the US administration and NATO for the eastward enlargement further into the post-Soviet space, while the Euro-Atlantic alliance raised concerns over Moscow’s recent military presence towards Eastern Europe.

The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had said last month that Russia’s move to deploy nuclear arsenal in its enclave Kaliningrad near the Polish border and recently-annexed Crimea would endanger European security and fundamentally change the balance of power in favour of Moscow.

Russia was allegedly increasing its military activities in the Baltic and Nordic regions where its planes and submarines have been intercepted since the last year.

Russian incursions mostly into the Baltic airspace sparked the reaction of Eastern European countries whereas Sweden and Finland have been complaining from Russian assaults through submarines in their territorial waters.

As the relations soured between Russia and the West, the NATO membership came to fore for the ex-Soviet countries bordering with Russia.

The Euro-Atlantic alliance admitted most of the post-Soviet countries except Ukraine and Georgia whose memberships have been essentially objected by Moscow.

Meanwhile, Armenia and Belarus have chosen to side with the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), known as Russia’s new Warsaw Pact.

Poland and the Baltic states were in hurry to get the US military support since last year when the Euro-Atlantic allies reached on a "prepositioning" military equipment in Eastern Europe at the NATO summit in Wales.

But the countries in Central and Southeastern Europe like Hungary and Bulgaria still seem ambivalent since they have historical and cultural links with Moscow and declared that they may not want to jeopardise such ties by stationing the US military equipment on their territories.

Both countries are the members of NATO and maintain a balanced approach towards Russia wheres they also commit their membership in the NATO alliance.

The Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev said it was too early to utter about whether his country would join the Pentagon’s security plans against Russia.

"At the current moment there is no proposal whatsoever to the Bulgarian government upon which we can start discussions," Plevneliev said.

TRTWorld and agencies