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U.S. tanks, infantry supplies to go to Eastern Europe

By Ed Adamczyk
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter speaks during a joint press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Japan, on April 8, 2015. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter speaks during a joint press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Japan, on April 8, 2015. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

TALLINN, Estonia, June 23 (UPI) -- U.S. military equipment will be stored in several Eastern European NATO countries, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Tuesday.

The announcement that the United States will "pre-position" about 250 tanks, infantry vehicles and self-propelled howitzers in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Germany came the day after Carter announced a shipment of material, including surveillance equipment, artillery as well as air- and sea-based weaponry of material to a NATO quick-strike team known as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, which could be deployed within two to seven days.

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The preparations are to reassure NATO allies on the Russian border over perceived Russian and terrorist threats. Depending on the country, each will host enough equipment to supply a company of soldiers of about 150 troops, or a battalion of 750 troops. Carter noted the equipment can be used for training exercises.

"We will temporarily stage one armored brigade combat team's vehicles and associated equipment in countries in central and Eastern Europe," Carter said after he met with Baltic ministers in Tallinn, Estonia, Tuesday. Carter is visiting NATO capitals this week to meet with his counterparts, and will attend a NATO ministers' meeting in Brussels Wednesday and Thursday.

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Strengthening NATO's European capability has been a matter of importance since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and military involvement in Ukraine. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in particular, former Soviet Republics which are now NATO allies, have seen an increase in military exercises and simulations.

"During the Cold War we had everything there in the neighborhood we needed to respond," Julianne Smith of Washington's Center for a New American Security told the New York Times. "It's all atrophied. We haven't gone through the muscle movements of a conventional attack in Europe for decades."

There has been disagreement within NATO over whether a Russian invasion of Eastern Europe is imminent, or if the threat is less important than other issues, like migration and the advent of extremism from North Africa, currently affecting Europe. British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has warned Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are in severe danger of Russian efforts to destabilize them.

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