The US and Poland are discussing the deployment of American heavy weapons in eastern Europe in response to Russian expansionism and sabre-rattling in the region in what represents a radical break with post-cold war military planning.

The Polish defence ministry said on Sunday that Washington and Warsaw were in negotiations about the permanent stationing of US battle tanks and other heavy weaponry in Poland and other countries in the region as part of Nato’s plans to develop rapid deployment “Spearhead” forces aimed at deterring Kremlin attempts to destabilise former Soviet bloc countries now entrenched inside Nato and the EU.

Tomasz Siemoniak, the Polish defence minister, had talks on the issue at the Pentagon last month. Warsaw said on Sunday that a decision whether to station heavy US equipment at warehouses in Poland would be taken soon.

Nato’s former supreme commander in Europe, the American admiral James Stavridis, said the decision marked “a very meaningful policy shift”, amid eastern European complaints that western Europe and the US were lukewarm about security guarantees for countries on the frontline with Russia following Vladimir Putin’s seizure of parts of Ukraine.

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