The Pentagon will deploy 250 tanks, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, and self-propelled howitzers to Eastern European countries near Russia, the U.S. Department of Defense announced on Tuesday.
Under the new plan, known as the European Activity Set, the U.S. military equipment will be placed in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Germany.
“The gear is earmarked for use in training exercises, but it is hard to ignore the choice of nations to receive the equipment,” notes DefenseNews. “With the exception of Germany, they are all nations close to Russia, many of whom have expressed concern that the government of Vladimir Putin is looking to expand its regional control.”
“The U.S. has been using training exercises to reassure NATO allies since Russia’s invasion of Ukrainian territory in February 2014,” it adds.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that tanks, artillery, and other military equipment will be pre-positioned in eastern and central Europe to reassure NATO allies who are anxious about Russia’s involvement in Ukraine.
Carter made those comments at the Estonian capital Tallinn, located an estimated 125 miles from the Russian border. There, he met with Baltic defense leaders and addressed U.S. troops aboard an American war vessel that had just completed training exercises in the Baltic Sea.
“We didn’t want to have this new challenge,” Carter said, speaking to U.S. Marines and sailors aboard the San Antonio, reports Reuters.
“But then all of the sudden here you have behavior by Russia, which… is an effort to take the world backward in time. And we can’t allow that to happen,” he added.
Back at the Pentagon, Maj. James Brindle, a spokesman for the department, said the equipment would facilitate the logistics of future training drills.
“To preposition this equipment for these training events, it’s a benefit for the taxpayers, it’s a benefit for the soldiers, it’s a benefit for everybody to have this equipment already there, so they can just fall in much like we do at other training locations,” said Maj. Brindle, DefenseNews reports.
He pointed out that the “majority” of the gear will be “M2 and M3 Bradley fighting vehicles, Brindle said, with about 90 M1 tanks and less than 20 M109 self-propelled howitzers,” added the report.
Russia reportedly believes the U.S. move to place tanks and artillery in NATO states along its border constitutes the most aggressive act since the Cold War.