New U.S. armored brigade to be stationed in Eastern Europe in 2017 (1)
The United States plans to increase its military presence in Eastern Europe with continuous rotations of an additional armored brigade. The unit was to be deployed in early 2017, the U.S. military announced on Wednesday.
The rotations will bring the American military presence in Europe to three fully manned combat brigades, the U.S. European Command said.
"This Army implementation plan continues to demonstrate our strong and balanced approach to reassuring our NATO allies and partners in the wake of an aggressive Russia in Eastern Europe and elsewhere," Gen. Philip Breedlove, supreme commander of U.S. forces in Europe, said in a statement.
"Our allies and partners will see more capability. They will see a more frequent presence of an armored brigade with more modernized equipment in their countries," he added.
The new proposal would remove the prepositioned equipment, send it to be refurbished, and allow U.S. forces to bring more robust and modern equipment in with them when the new brigade arrives. There are about 4,500 soldiers in an armored brigade, along with dozens of heavy vehicles, tanks, and other equipment.
Officials said the U.S. would also send additional communications equipment to Europe, so that headquarters units could have the radios, computers, and other equipment needed to work with the brigades.
Last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter unveiled the Pentagon's proposed budget for next year, which includes $3.4bn, four times last year's amount, for operations in Europe.
This will fund the so-called European Reassurance Initiative, which aims to deter Russia from carrying out additional occupations and annexations like it did in Ukraine.
"These efforts demonstrate strong alliances and partnerships backed by demonstrated capability, capacity and readiness to deter aggression," Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Seal said on Wednesday.
"We have been clear that we will defend our interests, our allies, and the principles of international order in Europe."
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, said in December that the service would work to establish most of its maintenance sites for equipment caches in six Eastern European countries by the end of 2016.
Maintenance sites for what they call European Activity Sets in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria would be completed by the end of 2016, ideally by September, Hodges said.
Hodges said the equipment for the heavy brigade combat team now consisted of about 1,300 vehicles and would include about 235 to 250 tanks, Bradleys, and Paladin Howitzers.
The Pentagon's increased European presence means that U.S. forces will increase its military exercises with allied nations. They will also train with new equipment.
The U.S. military has about 62,000 permanently assigned service members in Europe.