(Reuters) – The United States plans by the end of next year to station around 150 tanks and armored vehicles in Europe for use by U.S. forces training there, according to a U.S. military commander.
Some of the tanks and vehicles – enough to equip an armored brigade – could be placed in Poland, Romania or the Baltic states, Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges, commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, said in a telephone interview with Reuters from Wiesbaden, Germany.
Hodges said a proposal to have a U.S. brigade rotate to Europe was first made two years ago, before the crisis over Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
That meant a U.S. armored unit was already in the pipeline to come to Europe earlier this year, when it was needed as part of U.S. measures to reassure eastern European allies in response to the Ukraine crisis, he said.
Hodges said he saw a risk that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine might launch a new offensive in the spring. Russiadenies any aggressive activity.
Hodges said he expected the U.S. measures, which include an expanded exercise program, to go on throughout 2015 and into 2016.
Keeping enough equipment in Europe for a U.S. armored brigade avoids the need for troops coming from the United States for exercises to bring their own kit.