The United States plans to increase its military presence in Eastern Europe to deter Russian aggression, officials said Wednesday.
The Pentagon intends to deploy an armored brigade combat team on a rotational basis next February along with a full set of equipment to NATO’s eastern borders, as part of the ongoing effort to reassure allies in the region that feel threatened by Russia.
The nine-month rotations will bring the U.S. military presence in Europe to three fully manned combat brigades, and they will conduct military exercises across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, the U.S. European command said.
The U.S. military has about 62,000 permanent forces in Europe, 25,000 of which Army soldiers. Under the new plan, the number will increase to 29,200 soldiers at any given time.
The deployment decision means U.S. allies will "see a more frequent presence of an armored brigade with more modernized equipment in their countries," said General Philip Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command.
Current equipment used in Europe will be stored in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, and will allow for "additional combat power, if and when needed," the military said.
Officials also said the Army would send additional communications equipment to Europe for units to have the radios, computers and other equipment needed to work with the brigades.
In what would be the first deployment of such proportion since the end of the Cold War, the Pentagon is acting on a proposal it announced last year to explore ways to increase U.S. military deterrence and send a message to Russia that any action against allies would be unacceptable.
Russia has caused concern among NATO allies with its seizure of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and its strategic bomber flights.
Some information for this report came from Reuters.