Russia is threatening to increase its military presence on its “western flank” if the United States pushes through with plans to place troops and heavy weapons in Eastern Europe, claimed a senior Russian defense ministry official on Monday. The potential action by both Washington and Moscow symbolizes a shift back to the military posture of the Cold War, when the two blocs faced each other with vast numbers of soldiers and weaponry in Europe.
“Russia would be left with no other option but to boost its troops and forces on the western flank,” said Gen. Yuri Yakubov, who said that the U.S. plans represented the most aggressive step by NATO and Washington since the end of the Cold War in 1991, when the USSR dissolved.
While U.S. plans for such a move have not been fully detailed by the Pentagon yet, analysts say that Poland and Lithuania, NATO members that both share a border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, would be the likely location of bases to host the troops and weapons. Ukraine, locked in a 15-month conflict with pro-Russian separatists that has caused an escalation of tensions between Russia and the U.S.-led alliance, would not host any of the new bases as it is not a NATO member.
Any U.S. deal to locate forces in Eastern Europe, where it currently has no standing armed presence, could be approved at the next meeting of NATO defense ministers in Warsaw on July 8-9, although the final location and timing of any move has yet to be determined.