Pentagon officials have long talked about their plan to rotate a third Army brigade in and out of Europe to bolster the two brigades already there. The plan was for the third brigade to move around Eastern Europe conducting training exercises with local allies nervously watching their borders for the next potential Russian provocation. On Wednesday, the U.S. European Command added a new wrinkle to the plan, announcing that this new armored brigade will bring its own tanks and other equipment along, instead of falling in on a prepositioned set of combat-ready equipment already on the continent. The move will add hundreds of the Army’s most advanced tanks, cannons, and other ground vehicles to the force. It will also free up an entire brigade’s worth of weapons currently being used by American forces training on the continent, which will be stored in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany in the event that more U.S. troops need to be rushed to the continent on short notice.
The Pentagon currently has about 65,000 troops assigned to the U.S. European Command, down from about 200,000 during the height of the Cold war in the 1980s. Then new deployments will be paid for using the European Reassurance Initiative, for which the White House requested $3.4 billion in its 2017 budget submission to Congress. The plan’s 2016 budget was $800 million.