The United States is planning to spend more than $200 million to repair and build airfields, training sites and other military structures as part of a massive military buildup in Eastern Europe aimed at deterring “Russian aggression.”
The military buildup close to Russian borders, as well as in Iceland and Norway, is part of the $4.6 billion European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), a program launched under former President Barack Obama to “reassure” US European allies, according to Air Force Times.
The EDI was initiated several months after the 2014 reintegration of the Black Sea Crimean Peninsula into the Russian Federation following a referendum, which triggered deadly violence in eastern Ukraine.
“As we continue to address the dynamic security environment in Europe, EDI funding increases our capabilities to deter and defend against Russian aggression,” reads an EDI fact sheet.
“Additionally, these significant investments will further galvanize U.S. support to the collective defense of our NATO Allies, as well as bolster the security and capacity of our U.S. partners.”
The fiscal 2018 annual defense bill, signed into law last week by President Donald Trump, authorizes the Air Force to purchase land and build installations overseas.
The legislation has allocated roughly $214 million for the construction of military installations in Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Luxembourg, Iceland and Norway.
Some of these bases will house high-tech stealth fighters such as the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Strike Fighter and reconnaissance assets to intercept Russian submarines in the North and Baltic Seas.
“While we can’t provide specific details on future operations and locations, we continuously look for opportunities for our fifth-generation aircraft to conduct interoperability training with our allies and partners in the European theater,” said Major Juan Martinez, a spokesperson for US European Command.
The new initiative comes despite Trump’s repeated calls for warmer relations with Moscow which has been accused of meddling in last year’s presidential election.
Russia says the military buildup at its doorstep threatens regional stability and global security.
The US has deployed a contingent of troops to Eastern Europe near Russia’s border since 2014. The deployments have been supplemented by four NATO battle groups of more than 1,000 soldiers.
The measures, according to Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, “clearly indicate blatant unwillingness of our Western partners to stop pushing an anti-Russian agenda.”