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World

U.S. Tanks Return To Germany To Help NATO Monitor Russian Aggression

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And we have some other news this morning. U.S. troops unloaded tanks at the German port of Bremerhaven over the weekend. They're there to bolster NATO's deterrence against potential Russian aggression. Esme Nicholson has the story.

ESME NICHOLSON, BYLINE: Dozens of U.S. battle tanks roll onto German soil only four years after having left for good. Together with 3,500 soldiers from Fort Carson, Colo., this heavy-duty cargo makes up for largest U.S. military deployment in Europe since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Deputy commander for the U.S. Army's European Command, Lt. Gen. Timothy Ray, says the heavy brigade is destined for the border of an increasingly provocative Russia.

TIMOTHY RAY: This is clearly in response to overt aggression. This is a methodical effort on the part of the allies to go and say to all those who would threaten peace and security in Europe, no. We're not going to allow that.

NICHOLSON: NATO is also about to beef up armored presence along its eastern flank to alleviate anxiety in the Baltic States and Poland following Moscow's annexation of Crimea and its intervention in eastern Ukraine. Not only are they apprehensive about Russia. There's concern about President-elect Trump, who, in his campaign, remarked he might not come to the aid of smaller NATO nations if they don't pay their way.

And some NATO allies fear the additional troops may escalate tensions with Moscow. Germany's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, called for dialogue instead of, quote, "saber-rattling." But Estonia's former foreign minister, Juri Luik, stresses that extra U.S. military support is crucial right now.

JURI LUIK: The United States remains a key country when it comes to the peace and security in Europe. It should be cherished.

NICHOLSON: Just as the front line between Russia and the West has shifted east away from Germany since the end of the Cold War, so has the sense of unease. For NPR News, I'm Esme Nicholson in Bremerhaven. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.