American Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the US would ‘pre-position’ a heavy artillery battalion to the Baltics and central Europe, when he visited Tallinn on Victory Day, June 23.
One ‘temporary’ battalion including tanks and artillery vehicles would be sent to the region and will rotate through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, he said.
Speaking at a press conference at the Swissôtel Tallinn, Carter announced: “American rotational forces need to move more easily and more quickly to do training and exercises here, that’s why I am pleased to announce we will temporarily stage one armored brigade combat team’s vehicles and associated equipment in countries in central and eastern Europe.”
He later clarified that “temporary” meant the equipment – called the European Activity Set - would move countries a lot, rather than only be in the region for a short time.
After the conference, a Department of Defense official confirmed to ERR just what would be sent. He said: “The European Activity Set that the secretary spoke of consists of an armor brigade combat team worth of equipment. That is roughly 90 tanks, 140 Bradley fighting vehicles and 20 M109 self-propelled Howitzers and associated equipment. We are not positioning troops. This equipment will be spread across the Baltics, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and Germany, and will be used when troops come to train in exercises with NATO partners.”
No date was given as to when the battalion would arrive in Europe, but Estonian Minister of Defense Sven Mikser said Estonia was ready to host as soon as “today or tomorrow”.
Carter added: “Unfortunately [today] we had to spend time talking about Russia’s recently attempting to turn back the clock in Europe and especially here in the Baltic region. And we each agreed that while we do not seek a cold war, let alone a hot war, with Russia, we will defend our allies.”
Mikser said it was “imperative” that the Baltic nations respond to the new security situation in the region and “that we must be able to respond to all today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.”
“We need long term answers to long term scenarios and it is important that we support out allies, ” he said.
(Photo: Siim Teder/Estonian Defense Forces)
During a meeting with Secretary Carter today, Mikser said that the Estonian Government has allocated 40 million euros to improve the conditions for Allied troops in Estonia. He said: “We will develop better training opportunities for the Allies and establish the necessary infrastructure for the pre-positioning of the heavy military equipment of a mechanized battalion in Estonia.”
Carter also visited the NATO cyber center in Tallinn and announced new plans for the US to work with the center on defense and protection strategies.
The Minister of Defense of Lithuania Juozas Olekas and the State Secretary of the Ministry of Defense of Latvia Jānis Sārts also took part in the morning meeting and press conference.
Each country committed to spending at least 2 percent of its GDP on defense spending in line with NATO’s guidelines.
After the conference the ministers each laid a wreath at Freedom Square to commemorate Victory Day. Carter said it was a “privilege” to be able to observe the day in Estonia and thanked the country for all it was doing in NATO.
US Defense Secretary laid a wreath at Freedom Square (Photo: Martin Dremljuga/ERR)
Editor: H. Wright