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Pentagon to Send Tanks, Vehicles and Howitzers Back to Europe

The U.S. Defense Department will send hundreds of Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and Paladin howitzers to Eastern Europe, an official said.

The move, announced Tuesday by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, is designed to show support to regional allies who are increasingly concerned about Russia's military involvement in the Ukraine and more aggressive posture on the continent.

"American rotational forces need to move more quickly and easily to participate in training and exercises here," Carter said during a press conference on Tuesday in Estonia, according to a transcript of his remarks.

"That's why I'm pleased to announce, and I discussed with my colleagues earlier today, that we will temporarily stage one armored brigade combat team's vehicles and associated equipment in countries in Central and Eastern Europe," he said. "This pre-positioned European activity set includes tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and artillery."

The equipment reportedly includes about 250 M1A2 Abrams tanks made by General Dynamics Corp., as well as M2/M3 Bradley fighting vehicles and M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, both of which are made by British defense giant BAE Systems Plc.

The gear will be placed in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland, along with Germany, for training exercises involving U.S. and allied forces, Carter said.

While more symbolic than strategic, the vehicles join a growing list of U.S. military hardware, including the F-15 fighter jets made by Boeing Co. and A-10 attack aircraft, deployed to Europe after Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea last year.

About 300 airmen and 12 A-10s with the 355th Fighter Wing in February departed Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona for Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany as part of a security theater package. The Air Force in March also deployed 12 F-15Es in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The defense secretary also announced a plan for the Pentagon to collaborate with NATO to develop better cyber defense strategies and critical infrastructure.

"We must also prepare NATO and our allies for cyber challenges, particularly from Russia," he said. "That's why today, I visited NATO's Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, and I'm pleased to announce a new American initiative to bolster the center's role in leading our partners towards improved cyber defense."

Russia recently threatened to boost forces on the borders of NATO states and position tactical Iskander missiles in the Russian enclave in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea if the U.S. goes ahead with the modest build-up of tanks, artillery and other heavy equipment in Eastern Europe.

"Russia will have no other choice but to boost its military potential along its western borders" to counter the U.S. move, Russian Gen. Yury Yakubov, a senior Defense Ministry official, told the Russian Interfax news agency.

--Richard Sisk contributed to this report.

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