US to boost troop numbers in Europe

WASHINGTON • The United States will step up its troop presence in eastern Europe in response to "an aggressive Russia", with continuous rotations of an additional armoured brigade beginning in early 2017, the US military has said.

The rotations will bring the US army's presence in Europe to three fully manned combat brigades, the US European Command said. A brigade comprises about 4,200 troops.

"This army implementation plan continues to demonstrate our strong and balanced approach to reassuring our Nato allies and partners in the wake of an aggressive Russia in eastern Europe and elsewhere," General Philip Breedlove, the top US commander in Europe, said in a statement. "Our allies and partners will see more capability. They will see a more frequent presence of an armoured brigade with more modernised equipment in their countries."

US Defence Secretary Ash Carter last month unveiled the Pentagon's proposed budget for next year, which includes US$3.4 billion (S$4.6 billion) - quadruple last year's amount - for operations in Europe.

The money will fund the so-called European Reassurance Initiative, which aims to deter Russia from carrying out additional land grabs after its 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

"These efforts demonstrate strong alliances and partnerships backed by demonstrated capability, capacity and readiness to deter aggression," Pentagon spokesman Laura Seal said. "We have been clear that we will defend our interests, our allies and the principles of international order in Europe."

The Pentagon's beefed-up European presence means US forces will increase military exercises with ally nations and train with new equipment. The US military has about 62,000 permanently assigned service members in Europe.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2016, with the headline 'US to boost troop numbers in Europe'. Print Edition | Subscribe