Tuesday

20th Nov 2018

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

Cyprus and Greece to create EU spy academy

EU ministers have agreed to create a new "intelligence school" and to jointly build new drones and attack helicopters, amid French and German calls for a future "EU army".

News in Brief

  1. May to meet Juncker on Wednesday to finalise Brexit deal
  2. Future of EU's Mediterranean naval mission in doubt
  3. EU budget talks for 2019 collapse
  4. EU mulls new Russia sanctions over Ukraine 'elections'
  5. EU farm chief 'confident' sugar prices will recover
  6. Researcher: EU expert groups still imbalanced and opaque
  7. Nature groups disappointed by EU fishing deal
  8. DUP chief says Irish backstop was 'tactic' by EU

Opinion

Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?

Few people commented on one key point in Macron's statement: he did not justify the idea of a European army by the need to intervene in Africa, which would have been France's traditional approach. Instead, he invoked the Russian threat,

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Cyprus and Greece to create EU spy academy
  2. MEPs likely to delay vote on greater transparency
  3. Cold shoulder for Franco-German euro budget plan
  4. Whistleblower: Danske Bank gag stops me telling more
  5. Spain raises Gibraltar, as EU and UK talk post-2020 relationship
  6. Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges
  7. Dutch flesh out proposal for EU human rights sanctions
  8. EU cheerleaders go to Russia-occupied Ukraine

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us