The U.S. Army will be sending tanks to the Baltics this week in the largest such deployment since the Cold War, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The step is aimed at reassuring America's European allies that Washington remains committed to their defense. Following joint U.S.-Polish exercises in northern Poland on Monday, some of the M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks used in the drills will be transported to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, where they will remain until the new NATO deterrence force is operational in the spring.
The exercises were planned before Donald Trump was elected President of the U.S. in November. Since then, allied officials have privately expressed concerns about the administration's policy toward NATO and whether the White House would curtail the deployment.
The dispatching of U.S. troops and armor to Europe demonstrates that the NATO members are impementing their decision to create a small force to better detect any Russian moves in the Baltics as well as shows Moscow that the alliances' major powers stand behind its eastern members, said Adam Thomson, a former U.K. Ambassador to NATO and head of think tank European Leadership Network.
US company to arrive in Estonia this week, equipment to follow next
The U.S. company-sized unit of the 173rd Airborne Brigade of the U.S. Army currently stationed at Tapa is to leave Estonia in the second half of February as it is replaced by a company-sized unit of the 68th Armor Regiment's 1st Battalion.
A spokesperson for the 1st Infantry Brigade of the Estonian Defence Forces told BNS that the company's personnel is to arrive in Estonia in the second half of this week while its heavy equipment will follow next week. The unit is armored with four M1A2 Abrams tanks and 15 Bradley fighting vehicles.
At the NATO Summit in Warsaw last July, members of the alliance decided to deploy four multi-national battalions of one thousand personnel each to countries on the alliance's eastern flank. The NATO contingents in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will be led by the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Germany, respectively. In addition, th U.S. announced that an armored brigade normally based in Colorado would also be stationed in Poland.
The Battle Company of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived in Estonia in September. Their rotation in the northernmost Baltic state will conclude at the beginning of February.
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla