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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » June 29, 2015
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New Arms Race in Eastern Europe?
June 29, 2015   
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The United States is planning to store tanks, infantry combat vehicles and other heavy weapons for thousands of American troops in Poland and other Eastern European countries, according to a report in The New York Times that triggered a threat by Moscow to retaliate.

The U.S. plans, prompted by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine, would be the first time since the end of the Cold War that America has stationed heavy military equipment in NATO member countries that were once Soviet satellite states, The New York Times pointed out.

The Pentagon is planning to station 1,200 vehicles in Eastern Europe, including 250 M1-A2 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and howitzers—enough hardware to equip a brigade of 3,000-5,000 troops. Under the plan, the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia could host equipment for a 150-strong company each, while Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and, possibly, Hungary for battalions of 750 soldiers. The plan aims to bolster NATO’s eastern flank and send a clear message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Western military alliance will come to the aid of its member countries, including those close to the Russian border, in case of any aggression by Moscow.

Before the Pentagon’s plan can enter into force, it has to be approved by U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and the White House.

Russia’s defense ministry has described the plan revealed by The New York Times as a “serious destabilizing factor.” According to Russian media reports, Moscow could respond by deploying weapons in areas bordering the Baltic states.

Russia’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper reported that heavy American weaponry in Eastern Europe would prompt Moscow to station Iskander-M ballistic missiles in Belarus and in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. According to Gen. Mikhail Matveyevski, the commander of Russia’s artillery and missile forces, such a move is scheduled to take place in 2018.

Mounted on mobile launch platforms, Iskander missiles can carry nuclear warheads and have a range of between 380 and 500 kilometers.

In the past, the Russian authorities repeatedly warned they could station Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad. Moscow considered such a move in response to plans to install parts of the U.S. National Missile Defense system—designed to deter missile attacks by “rogue states” such as Iran and North Korea—in several Central and Eastern European countries, including Poland and Romania.
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