WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The U.S. is sending some 250 tanks, armored vehicles and other equipment to new NATO member states in response to “Russia’s provocations.”
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told CBS News in an exclusive interview that the U.S. will permanently station the weapons across seven eastern European nations near Russia.
“These are responses to Russia’s provocations,” Carter told CBS News while in Estonia, adding that it was “aggressive rhetoric, aggressive behavior – the kind of thing that doesn’t belong in a Europe” of today.
The weapons will be placed in Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, for now, according to CBS News.
“We continue to hope that Russia will change course,” Carter stated. “I don’t see any signs of that, but we continue to hold the door open.”
The announcement to station heavy military equipment across the seven eastern European nations comes days after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would add to his country’s arsenal more than “40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of penetrating even the most technologically advanced missile defense systems.”
“What’s odd about it is the level of rhetoric,” Carter told CBS News. “That’s what’s so out of tune with the times and the way responsible world leaders have conducted themselves with respect to talking about what are very fearsome weapons.”
During a question-and-answer session with CBS’ Charlie Rose at an economic summit in St. Petersburg last week, Putin said the Russian government is “not aggressive,” but “persistent in pursuing our interests.”
Putin accused the U.S. government of “trying to impose on us their decisions and their standards without thinking how we consider our own interests.”
U.S. and NATO allies have criticized Russia for its increasingly aggressive actions, including the annexation of Crimea and its backing of separatist troops on Ukraine’s eastern border.
Carter said the heavy weapons will be “for training purposes primarily.”
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