The United States is set to put heavy weaponry in Eastern Europe in an attempt to deter Russian aggression, American and allied officials say.
The Pentagon's plans include storing battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 American troops in several Baltic and Eastern European countries.
If approved, the measures would represent the first time since the end of the Cold War that the United States has used the newer NATO member nations in Eastern Europe to has stationed heavy military equipment.
It would be the most prominent move in a series of actions that the United States and NATO have taken to send a clear message of resolve to defend NATO allies close to Russia’s border.
NATO expanded to include the Baltic nations in 2004 and at the time the United States avoided the permanent stationing of equipment or troops in the new members territories, as the country sought varying forms of cooperation with Russia.
"This is a very meaningful shift in policy," James G. Stavridis told the Washington Post, a retired admiral and the former supreme allied commander of NATO, now the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
"It provides a reasonable level of reassurance to jittery allies, although nothing is as good as troops stationed full-time on the ground, of course."
The pentagon’s proposal is still to be approved by the White House and Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, and has raised concern among some NATO allies about Russia’s reaction to a buildup of equipment.
The 'prepositioned' stocks would be a company’s worth of equipment, enough for about 150 soldiers in each of the three Baltic nations: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Meanwhile, equipment for approximately 750 soldiers would be located in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Hungary each.
The total is similar to the levels the US kept stationed in Kuwait for more than a decade after Iraq invaded it in 1990.
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