In a bid to reassure its NATO allies, the United States is considering stationing up to 5,000 American troops and heavy weaponry such as battle tanks in Eastern European and the Baltic countries to “deter possible Russian aggression.”
If approved, it would be the most serious deployment of military equipment in Europe since the end of the Cold War, according to The New York Times.
“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," the NYT reported. "Enough for a company or possibly a battalion – about 750 soldiers – would be located in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Hungary.”
All in all, the plan would provide for a brigade-sized force of 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers, including more than 200 Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
The U.S. has already caused serious damage to the Russian economy with sanctions following the Ukraine-Russia crisis that escalated in February 2014. However, this is the first time in almost a year that the Pentagon is mulling a serious military response against Moscow.
So what changed?
Per the Times report, “Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine have caused alarm and prompted new military planning in NATO capitals.”
Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius reiterated the security threat from Russia when he stated that the “threats to the Baltic region have increased.”
Earlier in May, the NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg claimed Moscow was planning to deploy “nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad (near Poland’s border),” adding Russia’s provocative behavior would redouble the military alliance’s commitment to “collective defense.”
In addition, the news of possible U.S. military deployment near Russia comes almost a week after a Russian military aircraft reportedly flew within 150 meters of a group of NATO warships in the Baltic Sea – a move which was seen as a “low-level military intimidation” between Russia and the Western allies.
In fact, Russia has been regularly entering Baltic airspace with its warplanes over the past few months.
And since, as Max Fisher noted in a recent Vox article, “an attack on one member, it says, is an attack on them all” the U.S. – along with Canada, and Western Europe has to protect NATO nations near Russia.
The plan is yet to be approved by U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and the White House.