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Poland, U.S. negotiating deployment of heavy weapons against Russian influence

By Andrew V. Pestano
The Pentagon is planning to send heavy military equipment to be stationed in Eastern Europe in an effort to deter Russian aggression in the Baltic region. The strategy, which would mark the first time since the Cold War that the Pentagon stationed heavy equipment in the former Soviet Bloc region, still needs to be approved by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter (pictured) and President Barack Obama. File Photo by Olivier Douliery/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/53d9b81fe0297a692659f4dc4b8b73a5/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
The Pentagon is planning to send heavy military equipment to be stationed in Eastern Europe in an effort to deter Russian aggression in the Baltic region. The strategy, which would mark the first time since the Cold War that the Pentagon stationed heavy equipment in the former Soviet Bloc region, still needs to be approved by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter (pictured) and President Barack Obama. File Photo by Olivier Douliery/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 14 (UPI) -- Poland and the United States are negotiating the possible deployment of heavy weapons to the Eastern European country as to deter Russian expansion and influence.

Tomasz Siemoniak, Poland's defense minister, said on Sunday that talks over the deployment of U.S. weaponry began last month in the Pentagon.

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The move is part of a NATO objective to deter Russia's apparent expansionist designs over former Soviet bloc countries, sparked by Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and further fueled by a war in eastern Ukraine between Kiev and pro-Kremlin forces.

"The U.S. is preparing a set of various measures, and among them the placement of heavy weaponry in Poland and other countries will be very important," Siemoniak said. "It's relatively easy to move soldiers. It would be good, however, if the equipment was near the area of potential threat."

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The Pentagon wants to send enough military equipment there to supply 5,000 troops on the ground with resources including about 1,200 vehicles.

The Pentagon has been reluctant to station heavy military equipment in the Baltic region for years, largely because of Washington's intention to maintain a positive relationship with Moscow.

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Russia has continuously denied allegations that the country has a military presence in Ukraine and that it's arming Ukrainian rebels.

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Russia's annexation of Crimea and the subsequent fighting have sparked a rapid deterioration of East-West relations -- punctuated by economic sanctions against Moscow and several military shows of force in recent months.

A decision on the deployment of weapons is expected soon. If approved, it would mark the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union that the U.S. military places heavy equipment in the former Eastern Bloc region.

Doug G. Ware contributed to this report.

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