A US government plan to place tanks and heavy weapons in Nato countries bordering Russia would be the most aggressive step by the Pentagon since the Cold War, a Russian defence official has said.
The US has said it would keep the weapons on allied territory to reassure governments who are reportedly frustrated that Nato has not done more to deter Russia.
“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.
“Russia will have no option but to build up its forces and resources on the Western strategic front,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
Russia’s response could include delivering missiles to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad between Poland and Lithuania. It would also, Yakubov said, look to increase troop numbers in Belarus.
“Our hands are completely free to organise retaliatory steps to strengthen our Western frontiers,” Yakubov said.
The US said it wanted to store enough equipment for 150 soldiers in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Additional supplies for 750 soldiers would be sent to Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Hungary.
Having weapons on the border would mean a being able to respond more quickly in the event of an attack on NATO’s eastern border.
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.”
Additional reporting by Reuters
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