US sends fresh tanks, planes, troops to Europe as ‘message’ to Moscow
THE United States has raised the stakes in staring down an increasingly hostile Kremlin, sending another wave of tanks, planes and troops to reinforce a nervous Europe.
At the weekend, the United States air force also declared it will be sending another 12 A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack planes to reinforce NATO’s Operation Atlantic Resolve — an ongoing show of force aimed at deterring mounting Russian hostility towards Ukraine and East European states.
The largest airborne troop deployment drills since the Cold War has also kicked off this week, involving 5000 soldiers from 11 NATO nations. The four-week ‘simultaneous multinational airborne operation’ Swift Response 15 will see war-games taking place across Germany, Italy, Bulgaria and Romania.
The exercises come as new main battle tanks, howitzer artillery and armoured reconnaissance vehicles of a US Marine Corps Combined Arms Company arrive in Bulgaria to bolster the existing unit of 260 troops based there.
“The initiative is meant to soothe NATO allies concerned with Russian military aggression following the forceful 2014 annexation of Crimea.,” the Marine Corps Times reports.
The military manoeuvres represent the highest tensions between East and West since the Cold War ended more than two decades ago.
Preparations ... Ukrainian servicemen take part in military exercises on the shooting range of Ukrainian forces near Ghytomyr, some 150km west of Kiev, on August 11, 2015. Source: AFP
Crisis in Ukraine
Ukrainian government forces have been fighting pro-Russian separatists since an uprising in April last year, shortly after disguised Russian forces seized control of Crimea.
While Moscow denies providing direct support for the separatists, there is considerable evidence of Russian military equipment and personnel fighting in the disputed territories. So far the conflict has claimed more than 7000 lives.
While a truce was signed in February, fighting has escalated significantly in recent weeks. Ukraine has expressed fears a fresh major offensive may soon be launched against its territories.
Russia has not taken kindly to the West’s response to its ambitions.
The US declared earlier this year it will be “forward deploying” 1200 pieces of military equipment — including 250 tanks — into Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and the Baltic States, along with 5000 troops, to counter Russian aggression.
In retaliation, Moscow has threatened to mass more tanks and troops on its own borders. It says short range ballistic missiles will now be based in Kaliningrad, putting Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia within their reach.
Last stand ... An A-10C Thunderbolt II conduct close-air support training. The US air force wants the venerable ground attack aircraft scrapped. Source: USAF