Approximately 750 pieces of U.S. armored equipment are en route to the Baltic member states of NATO Monday for the purpose of training exercises, the Pentagon told Agence France Presse.
Experts widely interpret the deployment as a signal of collective strength to Putin, since Russian movements in Crimea and eastern Ukraine have caused considerable consternation.
The U.S. is also deploying approximately 3,000 troops from the 3rd Infantry Division based out of Georgia to accompany its equipment to Eastern Europe, and so while bases are closing across Europe, the Pentagon is switching to a strategy short-term deployments to support NATO’s Operation Atlantic Resolve.
According to Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren, equipment has already started arriving in Riga, the capital of Latvia, for exercises that will last 90 days. However, an anonymous U.S. military source told AFP that the equipment will stay in the region long after U.S. troops head back to base.
Part of the arsenal includes Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, as well as helicopters; and Special operations forces have already paid the region a visit to conduct training over the past year.
U.S. General John O’Connor confirmed with AFP that the armor will remain “for as long as required to deter Russian aggression.”
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, three states which joined NATO in 2004, have been watching the situation unfold in Ukraine from a position of relative insecurity, AP reported. As post-Soviet states, these countries have very little military equipment of their own, and Russia has recently capitalized on their weak arsenals by conducting a series of recent military exercises near the Baltic area.
In late February, Lithuania announced that it plans to reintroduce conscription laws later this year, over concerns that the Kremlin may try and reassert control, according to reports from Defense News.
“We must reinforce the country’s defense capacities. Under new geopolitical circumstances, the army must be properly prepared for the country’s … defense even in times of peace. Today’s geopolitical situation requires that we strengthen and speed up the manning of our army,” said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.
The plan would bring in around 3,000 to 3,500 men each year into Lithuania’s military service.