The U.S. will send hundreds of armored tanks to allies in Eastern Europe to fortify its support of the vulnerable region in light of military posturing by Russia, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced Tuesday. While Carter said the 250 tanks, armored vehicles and other equipment will be used primarily for training, the move comes shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin made strong statements that indicate he is reinforcing Russia’s military might in the area.
Putin recently said he will add 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles to Russia’s arsenal in Moscow that are “capable of penetrating even the most technologically advanced missile defense systems,” CBS News reported. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg immediately derided the announcement as “nuclear saber-rattling” and “dangerous,“ the BBC reported, while others have brushed it off as merely rhetorical.
Nevertheless, Putin's statement set off warning bells for officials in the U.S. and its allies bordering Russia. "What's odd about it is the level of rhetoric," Carter told CBS News. "That's what's so out of tune with the times and the way responsible world leaders have conducted themselves with respect to talking about what are very fearsome weapons."
Carter was flanked by high-ranking defense officials from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, who spoke of nervousness over the threat of Russian aggression following Putin's announcement and welcomed American reinforcements as a deterrent, the Associated Press reported.
The equipment will be staged within the borders of six NATO allies -- Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania -- and may move from place to place to allow multiple countries to participate in coordinated military exercises throughout the region. Carter says additional U.S. troops may be sent to Europe to help with the transfer and training, but that any boost in personnel would be temporary.
The U.S. also plans to shore up its cyber defense efforts through a partnership with NATO, as Russian hackers have executed multiple digital security breaches in recent years that have reached into computers at the State Department, the Pentagon and the White House.