Over 100 US armoured vehicles roll into Latvia
Latvia has confirmed more than 120 armoured units, including tanks, have been delivered by the US. According to the Latvian Ministry of Defence, these include M1A2 Abrams tanks and M2A3 Bradley armoured vehicles.
The tanks were delivered to Latvia via Riga Freeport after being offloaded from the carrier ship Liberty Promise on Monday.
On March 6, NATO forces carried out drills with the Latvian army, similar drills also took place in Poland. The ‘temporary’ deployment of US troops in Poland and the Baltic states has been extended through to 2015.
A 1997 Russia-NATO agreement forbids NATO from having troops permanently stationed in the Baltic States, so the deployment remains a temporary mission. The US is keen to expand the operation from the Baltic to the Black Sea. “So by the end of the summer, you could very well see an operation that stretches from the Baltics all the way down to the Black Sea,” said Colonel Michael Foster, of the US 173rd Airborne Brigade.
Russian Deputy defence Minister Anatoly Antonov says Allied forces are ignoring diplomacy and NATO is using the situation in Ukraine to push closer to Russia’s border. However, he dismissed drills being carried out in the Baltic States, Poland and the Black Sea were a threat to Russia.
“Instead of uniting forces to fight evil, the worst of which is terrorism, Western nations are drawing new divisive lines, trying to realize containment schemes against unwelcome states. Today, Russia has been chosen as the target,” Antonov said on March 5.
He cited another example of a NATO military parade on February 24, held just 300 meters from the Russian border, in the Estonian town of Narva. About 140 pieces of armour and 10 times as many troops, including US soldiers, took part in that event. Moscow saw it as a stab in its direction.
A freight train carrying a column of American armoured vehicles was caught on camera in Latvia in December. Dalbe Railway Station, where the train was reportedly spotted, is less than 300 kilometers from the Russian border. The train was carrying at least 38 vehicles and several semitrailers, including eight Bradley Fighting Vehicles, nine M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers, four petrol tankers, Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, an M88 Hercules Armoury recovery vehicle, a couple of trucks, some tactical engineering and medical vehicles, at least four containers and a pair of railcars with ammunition.
NATO are not only bringing their own tanks and armoured vehicles to the Baltic States, they are also pushing Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to purchase weapons from richer allies. Estonia negotiated a $55-million Javelin anti-tank missile system deal. It has also signed “the largest procurement contract ever” for purchasing 44 infantry combat vehicles worth $154 million from the Netherlands. Latvia spent $60 million on a package that includes 123 British combat vehicles. Lithuania bought a $38 million GROM air defence system from Poland in September.