US tanks arrive in Europe as message to Russia
THE United States has landed an armoured brigade in Germany in the largest reinforcement of Europe since the Cold War - even as President-elect Trump continues to defend Putin.
The US Army's 3rd Armoured Brigade Combat Team, part of the 4th Infantry Division, began to arrive at the port of Bremerhaven at the weekend. Some 2800 Tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery and support vehicles - along with 3500 troops - have been rolling off the transport ships ever since.
'DETER RUSSIAN AGGRESSION'
The armoured brigade is destined to reinforce the defences of Poland.
"Let me be clear: This is one part of our efforts to deter Russian aggression, ensure the territorial integrity of our allies and maintain a Europe that is whole, free, prosperous, and at peace," deputy commander of US European Command Lieutenant General Tim Ray said in a press statement.
"We will also increase the scope and complexity of many exercises in our portfolio focusing on joint interoperability, missile defence and crisis response operations," Ray said.
The unit will conduct its first military training exercise in Poland later this month.
It's the largest move so far in a troop redeployment announced in the middle of last year, intended to counter threats and intimidation from Moscow towards eastern European nations such as Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria and Sweden since it annexed Crimea in 2014.
The move brings the total number of US troops in Europe to almost 70,000. Britain has also in recent months sent a tank unit and 800 troops to Estonia. Further NATO forces, including a US helicopter regiment, are expected to deploy in coming months.
When he announced the move last year, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the forces would take part in regular military exercises across the region with NATO allies. At that time, US Army Europe Commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges called the deployment the "embodiment of the United States' commitment to deterring aggression and defending our European Allies and partners."
However, the future of the moves to reinforce Eastern Europe remains uncertain.
President-elect Trump has said warm relations with Russia are a good thing and that only "stupid" people would disagree. He has also repeatedly attacked the role of NATO.
TRUMP 'ACCEPTS' RUSSIA BEHIND HACKING
The armoured brigade's arrival comes just days after US intelligence agencies formally accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being behind email hacking efforts to boost US President-elect Donald Trump's chances of winning the 2016 poll.
Trump has expressed scepticism about Russia's role and declined to say whether he agrees that the meddling was done on his behalf.
However, one of his aides softened that stance earlier today.
"He's not denying that entities in Russia were behind this particular campaign," incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus said.
That's more than Trump himself has said, and he hasn't responded to calls for Washington to retaliate. Those are decisions, aides said, that Trump will make after he becomes president on January 20
In an interview with The Associated Press after the briefing, Trump said he "learned a lot" from his discussions with intelligence officials, but he declined to say whether he accepted their assertion about Russia's motives.