The United States is reportedly poised to store heavy military equipment in the Baltics and Eastern Europe in a significant move to deter Russian aggression in Europe, a senior US official said on Saturday.
The New York Times cited the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, as saying “We will pre-position significant equipment,” commenting on a New York Times report that the Pentagon was poised to store battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 troops.
The move, if approved, would be the most serious deployment of heavy military equipment since the Cold War in newer NATO-member states in Eastern Europe.
The plan seeks to reassure allies made uneasy by Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea in March 2014, although the plans fall short of a permanent presence of “boots on the ground.”
Following the expansion of NATO, the US and its allies have avoided the permanent stationing of equipment or troops in the Eastern Europe.
However, Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year and the war in eastern Ukraine between government troops and pro-Russian separatists have prompted new military planning, urging NATO-member states to bolster forces in the region, which is seen as a clear message to the Russian government that NATO will defend its allies.
“The US military continues to review the best location to store these materials in consultation with our allies” a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement.
He also said no decision has been made about if or when to move to this equipment.
According to The Times, the proposal envisaged that "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, or about 750 soldiers, would be located in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Hungary."