Nato deployment begins against possible Russian aggression
Thousands of troops moved with military equipment to Nato’s eastern border
Maj Gen Timothy McGuire, deputy commander of US forces in Europe, at the unloading of US military vehicles from a transport ship in the harbour at Bremerhaven, northwestern Germany, on Friday. Photograph: Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty Images
Dozens of tanks, armoured trucks and other military equipment docked in Germany on Friday to begin a journey across Europe – accompanied by about 4,000 US soldiers – for deployment on Nato’s eastern border.
Nato says “Operation Atlantic Resolve” – one of the largest deployments in peacetime – is a deterrent against possible Russian aggression towards Poland and the Baltic countries.
However the deployment so close to Russia, agreed by Nato member states at their 2014 Wales and 2015 Warsaw summits, has been condemned by Moscow as a provocation and a breach of agreements at the end of the cold war.
In total, some 2,500 pieces of equipment, including 600 vehicles, have begun making the journey from Bremerhaven, on Germany’s northern coast, across the continent in special convoys.
Among the equipment to be transported are 87 Abrams tanks, 20 Paladin artillery vehicles and 84 Black Hawk, Chinook and Apache helicopters.
Germany’s Bundeswehr army is supporting the arrival and deployment of US military equipment, an operation scheduled to take 12 days.
In addition to a US battalion stationed in Poland, Germany, Canada and Britain are sending battalions of their own of up 1,000 troops each to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Maj Gen Timothy McGuire, deputy commander of US forces in Europe, said the deployment was Nato’s answer to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its ongoing conflict with Ukraine.
Act of aggression
“This is just showing the strength and cohesion of the alliance and the US commitment to maintain the peace on the continent,” he said. Dismissing Russian claims the deployment was an act of aggression, he said the “best way to maintain the peace is through preparation”.
Newer Nato members in central and eastern Europe, as well as the Baltic countries, have lobbied for years for a greater military presence in their countries.
The deployment – and German involvement – has prompted a critical reaction among the country’s centre-left political parties, in particular in federal states through which the transports will pass.
Dietmar Woidke, Social Democrat (SPD) state premier in Brandenburg, surrounding Berlin, said dialogue with Moscow – not deployments – were the best way to defuse tensions. Similarly, Left Party Bundestag leader Sahra Wagenknecht attacked the move as Nato “sabre-rattling”.
“This may be viewed in Russia as concrete preparation for war and lead to counter-reaction,” she said.
German military officials dismissed as “propaganda” talk of provocation, saying that “tanks and dialogue are not a contradiction”. Klaus Wittmann, ex-Bundeswehr major general, told Berlin’s Inforadio the “Atlantic Resolve” deployment was too small to be a breach of Nato-Russia agreements that ban large troops being stationed permanently in former Warsaw Pact countries.
“But it is large enough to make clear that an attack on one is an attack on all,” he added.