The US will pre-position heavy weapons, including tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and artillery in central and eastern Europe for the first time, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said on Tuesday, AFP reports.
Ashton Carter
© Reuters/Scanpix

"We will temporarily stage one armoured brigade combat team's vehicles and associated equipment in countries in central and eastern Europe," Carter said at a joint press conference with three Baltic defence ministers in Tallinn, Estonia.

"This pre-positioned European activity set includes tanks, infantry fighting vehicles artillery," he confirmed, adding that "Estonia as well as Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland have agreed to host company to battalion-sized elements of this equipment, which will be moved around the region for training and exercises."

The announcement comes as NATO vowed Monday to step up its military presence in eastern Europe amid the worst standoff between Russia and the West since the Cold War, caused by the conflict in Ukraine.

Alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said NATO would approve plans this week to more than double the size of its rapid response force, having already created a special spearhead unit as part of the fallout from the Ukraine crisis.

The weaponry to be deployed by the United States in Eastern Europe will make it easier to organize exercises in the countries, says Ambassador Douglas Lute, the head of the US mission to NATO.

"It's a method to make our training more efficient," Lute told journalists at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday.

Asked whether the US move would irritate Russia, he emphasized that US troops would not be stationed in Europe together with the equipment. In the diplomat's words, sending weaponry to Eastern Europe is not a unilateral decision made by the US – a relevant request was received by the countries that will host the equipment.

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