WASHINGTON – The United States plans to store heavy military equipment in the Baltics and Eastern European nations to reassure allies made uneasy by Russian intervention in Ukraine, and to deter further aggression, a senior U.S. official said on Saturday.
“We will pre-position significant equipment,” the official said, commenting on a New York Times report that the Pentagon was poised to store battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 troops.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to comment on the details of the report, which cited U.S. and allied officials.
The report said the move, if approved, would mark the first time since the Cold War that Washington has stationed heavy military equipment in the newer NATO member states in Eastern Europe that once formed part of the Soviet sphere of influence.
The proposal, which seeks to reassure European allies in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in March 2014, is expected to be approved by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and the White House before a NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels this month, the paper said, quoting senior officials.
Asked about the article, a Pentagon spokesman said no decision had been made about the equipment.
“Over the last few years, the United States military has increased the pre-positioning of equipment for training and exercises with our NATO allies and partners,” Col. Steve Warren said.
“The U.S. military continues to review the best location to store these materials in consultation with our allies,” he said in a statement.
“At this time, we have made no decision about if or when to move to this equipment.”
As it now stood, the Times said, the proposal envisaged that “a company’s worth of equipment, enough for about 150 soldiers, would be stored in each of the three Baltic nations: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Enough for a company or possibly a battalion, or about 750 soldiers, would be located in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Hungary.”