US pre­pares to ‘pre-po­si­tion’ heavy weapons along NATO’s eastern flank

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

The U.S. will pre-po­si­tion heavy weapons, in­clud­ing tanks, in­fantry fight­ing ve­hi­cles and ar­tillery in cen­tral and eastern Europe for the first time, U.S. De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter said Tues­day in Es­to­nia’s cap­i­tal Tallinn.

“We will tem­po­rar­ily stage one ar­mored brigade com­bat team’s ve­hi­cles and as­so­ci­ated equip­ment in coun­tries in cen­tral and eastern Europe,” Carter said at a joint press con­fer­ence with three Baltic de­fense min­is­ters.

“This pre-po­si­tioned Euro­pean ac­tiv­ity set in­cludes tanks, in­fantry fight­ing ve­hi­cles ar­tillery,” he con­firmed, adding that “Es­to­nia as well as Lithua­nia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Ro­ma­nia and Poland have agreed to host com­pany to bat­tal­ion-sized el­e­ments of this equip­ment, which will be moved around the re­gion for train­ing and ex­er­cises.”

The an­nounce­ment comes as NATO vowed Mon­day to step up its mil­i­tary pres­ence in eastern Europe amid the worst stand­off be­tween Rus­sia and the West since the Cold War, caused by the con­flict in Ukraine.

Al­liance chief Jens Stoltenberg said NATO would ap­prove plans this week to more than dou­ble the size of its rapid re­sponse force, hav­ing al­ready cre­ated a spe­cial spear­head unit as part of the fall­out from the Ukraine cri­sis.

NATO is flex­ing its mus­cles in Poland and the Baltic states with a se­ries of drills fo­cused on its new spear­head force, a struc­ture de­signed to boost se­cu­rity on its eastern flank in the wake of Rus- sia’s 2014 an­nex­a­tion of Crimea from Ukraine.

Vis­it­ing ex­er­cises in Poland last week, NATO’s Stoltenberg said the al­liance was “im­ple­ment­ing the big­gest re­in­force­ment of our col­lec­tive de­fenses since the end of the Cold War,” af­ter Rus­sia an­nounced that it would ex­pand its nu­clear ar­se­nal this year.

Moscow was re­spond­ing to re­ported U.S. plans to de­ploy heavy weapons to its jit­tery NATO al­lies in eastern Europe, with Putin ac­cus­ing the U.S.-led al­liance of “com­ing to our borders.”

NATO mem­ber Poland went so far as to in­sist last week that the post-Cold War peace in Europe was “now over,” as the con­ti­nent grap­ples with myr­iad crises, in­clud­ing the Ukraine con­flict and ter­ror­ism.

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