The 4,000-soldier brigade that will ship to Europe early next year to bolster NATO’s deterrent posture against Russia has begun loading its equipment on trains for the move.
The 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT), 4th Infantry Division, this week began moving its tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and other gear to the Continent, where it will be permanently stationed as part of the Army’s new force posture there, according to the Army News Service.
Sending an armored brigade to Europe on a permanent heal-to-toe rotation resulted from the U.S. European Reassurance Initiative plan that boosts troop presence and military spending to NATO countries threatened by Russian saber rattling.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford and service chiefs have ranked Russia among the most potent threats to U.S. national security and international strategic interests. Incoming President-elect Donald Trump has taken a softer line on Russia and dismissed the NATO alliance as potentially obsolete. Trump has suggested increased cooperation with Russia in Syria and a less bellicose relationship with the Russians in Eastern Europe during his administration.
Trump on Monday spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who called the president-elect to “offer his congratulations on winning a historic election,” according to Trump’s transition website Greatagain.gov.
“The two leaders discussed a range of issues including the threats and challenges facing the United States and Russia, strategic economic issues and the historical U.S.-Russia relationship that dates back over 200 years,” the Trump team said in a statement on the website. “President-elect Trump noted to President Putin that he is very much looking forward to having a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and the people of Russia.”
A week after Trump’s election, no one from his transition team has contacted the Defense Department. While Carter is on a cross-country trip, his chief of staff Eric Rosenbach stayed behind at the Pentagon to meet Trump’s team if they arrive to begin taking briefings.
Pentagon Secretary Peter Cook said last week the Defense Department will proceed with established policies and plans until Trump takes office in January. It is not yet certain that Carter will be immediately replaced and he has not said that he would not serve under a Trump administration.
That means that the brigade deployment to Europe will proceed as planned, Cook said. Thus, the first of 2,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment began loading onto trains this week en route to Bremerhaven, Germany. The brigade’s worth of fighting vehicles and gear will then move by rail and military convoy to Poland and then disperse across six countries between Estonia and Bulgaria along NATO’s eastern flank.
The equipment will be met by 4,000 soldiers of the 3rd ABCT who will stay in Europe on a nine-month rotation before being replaced. Leaders of the 3rd ABCT conducted a pre-deployment site survey in Poland early last week to ensure staging areas and other facilities were ready to receive the brigade and its equipment, according to the Army News Service.