The "New York Times" has reported that the Pentagon is "poised" to station heavy weapons for up to 5,000 US troops in several Eastern European countries. The move would escalate tension with Russia.
Citing US and allied officials, the newspaper said that if accepted, the proposal would mark the first time since the Cold War that Washington has stationed heavy military equipment in the NATO member states in Eastern Europe that were once part of the Soviet sphere of influence.
"The proposed 'prepositioned' stocks - to be stored on allied bases and enough to equip a brigade of 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers - also would be similar to what the United States maintained in Kuwait for more than a decade after Iraq invaded in 1990 and was expelled by American and allied forces early the next year," the "New York Times" said.
According to the newspaper, the proposal, designed to reassure European allies in the wake of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea in March 2014, was expected to be approved by US Defense Secretary Ash Carter and the White House before a NATO defense ministers' meeting in Brussels later this month.
The "New York Times" said that as it stood, the proposal envisaged that "a company's worth of equipment - enough for about 150 soldiers - would be stored in each of the three Baltic nations: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Enough for a company or possibly a battalion - about 750 soldiers - would be located in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Hungary."
The Department of Defense had not made any related decision yet, the Pentagon told the newspaper.
ss/bk (AFP, Reuters, dpa)