Europe

US to increase military presence in eastern Europe

A Nato military exercise on a beach in Poland Image copyright AP
Image caption The move will enable more military exercises, like this one in Poland

The US is boosting its troop presence in eastern Europe in response to an "aggressive Russia", the military says.

An extra armoured brigade is being deployed, meaning a total of three will be there on a continuous basis.

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent says it is the most significant US reinforcement of Nato since tensions flared over Russian action in Ukraine.

Last month the Pentagon announced plans to quadruple its budget for European defence in 2017.

The additional presence will increase US ability to conduct military exercises in the region.

The plan demonstrates "our strong and balanced approach to reassuring our Nato allies and partners in the wake of an aggressive Russia in eastern Europe and elsewhere", said Gen Philip Breedlove, the senior US commander in Europe.

"Our allies and partners will see more capability. They will see a more frequent presence of an armoured brigade with more modernised equipment in their countries," he added.

'Division's worth of stuff'

Each brigade will rotate through the region for nine months before being replaced.

There are about 4,200 soldiers in a brigade, bringing with them military vehicles and other equipment.

"There will be a division's worth of stuff to fight if something happens," Deputy Secretary of Defence Robert Work told the Wall Street Journal.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Some Eastern European countries have been alarmed by Russian action in Ukraine

Relations between Russia and the West have plummeted since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in March 2014.

The intervention sparked fears that Russia was considering other incursions into neighbouring countries.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told Reuters on Wednesday the situation in Ukraine had "gone backwards over the last few months, with more and more violations of the ceasefire".

Russia has accused Nato of using the situation in Ukraine as an excuse to move closer to Russian borders.

"Stories are being spread that Russia will send its tanks into the Baltic states, into Sofia or into Budapest. No-one intends to do that," Russia's Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov told German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Some analysts suggested the US military could be planning for the post-Obama era.

The frontrunner to be the Republican nominee for the presidential election, Donald Trump, has strongly attacked the economic cost of US foreign policy.

US military presence in Europe

EUCOM - the US European Command - aims to support "enduring stability and peace" on the continent

62,000

US service personnel are permanently based in Europe

  • 25,000 of these are army soldiers

  • 4,200 more under new plan

  • 21 US bases across Europe

AFP

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