The US is about to deploy troops to the Baltic region in order to support NATO’s decision to increase its military presence in the region.
The increased focus on Europe is in line with the overall direction of the new defense budget, which identifies Russia and China as two of the world’s leading security threats.
“We’re going to move to a so-called heel to toe basis, where we’re over there consistently on the ground exercising,” said Under Secretary of Defense Mike McCord in a Feb. 9 briefing, according to a transcript.
The Pentagon requested $800 million for a similar program last year, and they received nearly four-times that amount in this year’s budget, with $3.4 billion. The amount is close to half the $7.5 billion the budget allocates to secure Syria and Iraq.
The funds will be used for more operational U.S. forces in Europe and more training with U.S. allies, as well as for improvements in gear and infrastructure.
Carter said “all of this together by the end of 2017 will let us rapidly form a highly capable combined arms ground force that can respond across that theater, if necessary.”
The European Reassurance Initiative was announced by President Barack Obama on June 3, 2014, just three months after Russia invaded Ukraine.
The initiative was intended to maintain a U.S. military presence in Europe that could respond to threats, and provide security assistance to countries being threatened by Russia—including Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
According to a statement from Obama on Feb. 2, however, previous U.S. military efforts in Europe “were all necessary, but they are not sufficient.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the increased U.S. budget for its operations in Europe “is a significant step” that will fund “persistent rotational presence of air, land, and maritime forces and more training and exercises.”