The United States has just raised the stakes of a dreaded World War III scenario. U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said the heavy arsenal, which includes Abrams tanks, will be placed in central and eastern Europe. The reason for the deployment was “Russia’s provocations.”
Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland, which share borders with Russia, will host the 250 tanks, artillery pieces and fighting vehicles. Apart from Abrams battle tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and self-propelled howitzers will also be included in the assortment.
Carter tried to be diplomatic in describing the need for the deployment during a news conference. “Their purpose is to enable richer training and more mobility to forces in Europe.”
Estonian Defense Minister Sven Mikser, however, was more honest and direct to the point in explaining that the presence of the military arsenal in their doorsteps is a message to Moscow. “In global terms Russia is no match conventionally to US or to NATO, but here in our corner of the world, Putin believes that he enjoys regional superiority.”
Carter said the U.S. does not seek a war of any sort with Russia, but when pushed, “we will defend our allies.” He said the U.S. remains hopeful that Russia will “change course” and abandon its aggression and expansion plans. “We continue to hold the door open” for Russia, Carter told CBS News.
But since the U.S. “don’t see any signs of that,” of Russia backing out, Carter said the country, through NATO, will continue to bolster the alliance’s deterrent power.
“We didn’t want to have this new challenge,” Carter told troops aboard U.S. warship San Antonio, docked in the Estonian capital Tallinn, which is a little over 200 km (125 miles) from the Russian border. “But then all of the sudden here you have behavior by Russia, which … is an effort to take the world backward in time. And we can’t allow that to happen.”
The U.S. equipment, to be temporarily stored in each of the seven states, can supply the needs of a company (150 soldiers) or battalion (750 soldiers). U.S. ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute clarified Washington will be only sending heavy equipment. Troops are not included.
“The tanks are empty, the… vehicles are empty, and will be parked, stored and maintained in training areas across the six Eastern most allies for training purposes,” he said. “Then the soldiers, on exercise after exercise, will be flown in… they’ll exercise with their allies.”