U.S. Starts Huge European Military Deployment in Poland

US tanks
U.S. tanks, trucks and other military equipment are unloaded in the harbour of Bremerhaven, Germany, January 8. Fabian Bimmer/Reuters

U.S. tanks, the first of a 3,500-strong military deployment to Eastern Europe, arrived in Poland Tuesday, in a bid to shore up NATO defenses near Russia.

NATO decided to double down on defense measures over the summer in the Baltic region, with the announcement of a new 4,000-person multinational force in September, intended to deter Russian aggression. To that same purpose the U.S. decided to reinvigorate its regular deployment with heavier vehicles, setting a new standard for the defense capabilities it deploys in Eastern Europe.

The first elements from the U.S. Fourth Infantry Division's Third Armored Brigade Combat Team arrived Monday, the army announced, though they will eventually bring 87 tanks, 18 Paladins, 419 multi-purpose Humvees and 144 Bradley fighting vehicles. Military vehicles also arrived in Germany en route to Poland. The move will result in the largest shipment of U.S. brigades to the region since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The new U.S. troop deployment will fan out across Eastern Europe, though key elements will remain in Poland, as the command center. This mirrors the U.S. contribution to NATO's multinational force across the Baltic region, which also focused on Poland; the U.S. will be the deployment's leading partner.

#HappeningNow American tanks rolling onto Polish soil! #KnightsPride #Readiness @USArmyEurope @SECARMY @GENMarkMilley @UnderSecArmyPA @NATO pic.twitter.com/xbOcn72wOK

— 16th SB (@16thSustBde) January 9, 2017

Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom will also participate in this capacity, performing this task in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia respectively.

The U.S. armored and infantry troops, however, are part of parallel but separate measures to the NATO personnel deployment, which will bring in international forces from the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Croatia and Luxembourg.

The U.S. Fourth Division deployment will take part in the annual Atlantic Resolve drill, in which U.S. troops rotate across Eastern Europe for nine months. It is the first in planned back-to-back rotations of armored brigades to beef up heavier capabilities not only in Poland and the Baltics but further south, towards Romania and Bulgaria.

Currently the Third Armored Brigade Combat Team is assembling in snowy Pomorskie and Zagan, Poland, with Command Sergeant Major Alberto Delgado presiding over the first arrivals on Monday.

"This is what it's all about—tanks in motor pools, soldiers on tanks working," Delgado said in a video shot on site. "A strong Europe."

Russia has repeatedly protested the arrival of Western troops in its former spheres of influence and takes particular issue with U.S. deployments, which it considers non-regional and provocative. The U.S. and NATO deny that their intentions are in any way intended to be aggressive and insist that the deployment's nature is deterrence and defense, at the behest of the nations hosting the troops.