Tuesday

20th Oct 2020

US military plans for Europe prompt Russian warning

  • The brigade-sized force will move around eastern Europe on a rotational basis (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The US has unveiled fresh details of its plan to create a Russia-deterrent force in eastern Europe, prompting Russia to warn of an “asymmetric response” and of a potential “crisis”.

The Pentagon said in a statement on Wednesday (30 March) that from February 2017 a brigade-sized force will begin rotating its troops in and out of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland and Romania.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Breedlove (c) with German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen (Photo: 1GNC Munster)

The troops - up to 4,500 soldiers - would switch from location to location every nine months and conduct regular exercises with host nation forces.

They’ll bring with them modern tanks and armoured personnel carriers which will be stored in warehouses in the region, gradually replacing older equipment which will be moved to depots in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.

The new materiel will include 250 tanks, armoured personnel carriers and self-propelled artillery pieces as well as 1,700 other vehicles and trucks, the US daily the Wall Street Journal said, citing Robert Work, the US deputy defence chief.

The idea of creating a Russia-deterrent force was first outlined at a Nato summit in Wales in 2014 after Russia invaded Ukraine. It comes amid concerns that Moscow’s next move could be to destabilise one of Nato’s eastern allies.

The US earlier this year also announced that it would quadruple military spending on its European forces to $3.4 billion, with Wednesday’s announcement adding detail to the plans.

General Philip M. Breedlove, the commander of US forces in Europe, said: “This is a big step in enhancing the army's rotational presence and increasing their combat equipment in Europe.

“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.”

The US army statement added: “The [new] equipment will enable rapid deployment of ground forces and additional combat power in response to contingencies throughout the region.”

Work also told The Wall Street Journal: “If push came to shove, they [the rotational force] would be able to come together as a cohesive unit that has trained together, with all their organic equipment, and fight. That’s a lot better than what we have right now.”

Reacting to the news, Russia’s envoy to Nato, Alexander Grushko, told the Russia 24 TV channel on Wednesday: “Certainly, we’ll respond totally asymmetrically.

“We are not passive observers, we consistently take all the military measures we consider necessary in order to counterbalance this reinforced presence that is not justified by anything.”

An “assymetric” response refers to military, diplomatic, or economic countermeasures which are not the direct equivalent of the US military build-up.

Grushko added that if Nato yielded to Georgian and Ukrainian overtures to join the military alliance: “This would explode the situation and put Europe on the brink of a crisis, whose size and scale can’t be imagined today.”

Russia this week also opted to send a senior diplomat instead of its president or PM to a nuclear non-proliferation summit in Washington.

“As we’ve said all along, we would welcome a stronger Russian role with respect to fighting Daesh [Islamic State], so it’s not just about nuclear security this week,” US state department spokesman John Kirby said.

“We think … it’s important for Russia to be a participant in these kinds of talks.”

The US pivot back to Europe comes after US president Barack Obama had said he would draw down his forces in the region in favour of giving more attention to security concerns in the Pacific area.

It also comes amid differences of opinion between Moscow and Western capitals on the meaning of a 1997 Nato-Russia pact on limiting new troop deployments.

The US step is unlikely to be welcomed in some EU and Nato capitals.

“For all the faults of Russia, its show of muscles, its power-policy, but also for that same reason we should be careful about surrounding Russia too much with Nato,” admiral Luigi Binelli Mantelli, who was until recently Italy’s chief of defence, told EUobserver in a recent interview.

“They have a different approach. We’re more confident. But they’re not so confident in the [Nato-Russia] relationship.”

Russia's EU neighbours boost arms spending

Fear of Russia saw easterly EU states post some of the sharpest increases in arms spending in the world last year, according to Swedish think tank Sipri.

EU joint defence to focus on south

France and Germany propose leap forward on EU defence, but ideas are far from being an "EU army", and target African crises instead of Russia.

Column

A 'geopolitical' EU Commission. Great idea - but when?

Safeguarding Europe's position starts with recognising the unpleasant reality that Europe's power is waning. Behind the facade of European cooperation, national self-interest still predominates and that has never been any different.

Rightwing MEPs bend to Saudi will after Khashoggi death

Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed two years ago on 2 October. Since then, mainly centre-right, conservative and far-right MEPs have voted down any moves to restrict, limit or ban the sales of weapons to the Saudi regime.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. EU money used by neo-Nazi to promote Holocaust denial
  2. Over 80% of Europe's habitats in poor or bad condition
  3. EU's Brexit move could end deadlock in talks
  4. EU's migrants more at risk from coronavirus
  5. Baltics pin hopes on Biden
  6. France marks trauma of history teacher's murder
  7. Spain's Sanchez in storm over judicial appointments bill
  8. Violating promises and law, von der Leyen tests patience

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us