WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will place approximately 250 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and self-propelled howitzers throughout six countries that are close to Russia, the department announced Tuesday.
Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, along with Germany, will have company- to battalion-sized equipment sets located inside their territory under the new plan, dubbed the European Activity Set.
The gear is earmarked for use in training exercises, but it is hard to ignore the choice of nations to receive the equipment. With the exception of Germany, they are all nations close to Russia, many of whom have expressed concern that the government of Vladimir Putin is looking to expand its regional control.
The US has been using training exercises to reassure NATO allies since Russia's invasion of Ukrainian territory in February 2014.
Having the gear in place for future training exercises makes logistics easier, said Maj. James Brindle, Pentagon spokesman.
"To preposition this equipment for these training events, it's a benefit for the taxpayers, it's a benefit for the soldiers, it's a benefit for everybody to have this equipment already there, so they can just fall in much like we do at other training locations," he said.
The gear is a mix of redeploying resources already in Europe, as well as a new battalion's worth of equipment being shifted in from outside the continent. There are about 64,000 US troops in Europe.
The "majority" of the roughly 250 pieces of equipment will be M2 and M3 Bradley fighting vehicles, Brindle said, with about 90 M1 tanks and less than 20 M109 self-propelled howitzers.
Brindle added that there is no plan to beef up air power in the region concurrent to the new placement of equipment. There have been multiple exercises in Eastern Europe to reassure allies.
The planned movement of equipment comes the day after Defense Secretary Ash Carter, currently traveling in Europe, announced a new commitment of US equipment for NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.
"Our support will include ISR, strategic and inter-theater lift, command and control, special-operations capabilities, logistical expertise and assets, and precision joint fire capabilities among others," Carter said Monday in Münster, Germany.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren did not provide any additional details on that equipment and personnel for NATO during a briefing with reporters on Tuesday.