27 October 2016
US Army and Polish soldiers unload M1 Abrams tanks for military exercises in northwestern Poland  this March. Photo: Reuters
US Army and Polish soldiers unload M1 Abrams tanks for military exercises in northwestern Poland this March. Photo: Reuters

Russia vows to retaliate if US stores weapons on its borders

A plan by Washington to station tanks and heavy weapons in NATO states on Russia’s border would be the most aggressive US act since the Cold War, and Moscow would retaliate by beefing up its own forces, a Russian defense official said.

The United States is offering to store military equipment on allies’ territory in eastern Europe, a proposal aimed at reassuring governments worried that after the conflict in Ukraine, they could be the Kremlin’s next target.

Poland and the Baltic states welcomed the decision by Washington to take the lead, Reuters said.

But others in the region were more cautious, fearing their countries could be caught in the middle of a new arms race between Russia and the US.

“If heavy US military equipment, including tanks, artillery batteries and other equipment really does turn up in countries in eastern Europe and the Baltics, that will be the most aggressive step by the Pentagon and NATO since the Cold War,” Russian defense ministry official General Yuri Yakubov said.

“Russia will have no option but to build up its forces and resources on the Western strategic front,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

He said the Russian response was likely to include speeding up the deployment of Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave bordered by Poland and Lithuania, and beefing up Russian forces in ex-Soviet Belarus.

“Our hands are completely free to organize retaliatory steps to strengthen our Western frontiers,” Yakubov said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said: “We hope that reason will prevail and the situation in Europe will be prevented from sliding into a new military confrontation which may have dangerous consequences.”

The Pentagon said on Monday the US military was in the process of deciding where to store a battalion’s worth of military equipment in Europe.

The decision is part of a long-term effort to maintain equipment for a heavy brigade in the region to facilitate US rotational training with NATO allies.

“This is purely positioning of equipment to better facilitate our ability to conduct training,” said Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

He noted that two battalions of equipment already was stored there.

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