BLUF: NATO has been engaged in the process of positioning vehicles, heavy weaponry, and equipment across Europe with the stated goal of countering Russian aggression. This shift began in 2014 as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve and has been escalated throughout 2015 and into 2016. Military equipment and personnel were scheduled to be permanently stationed in Norway, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, and Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania throughout 2016. NATO forces also conducted a training exercise which included Belgium, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, and non-NATO members Finland and Sweden.
The deployment by the United States of equipment and vehicle stockpiles are a part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which was initiated by the U.S. in April 2014 in an effort to reassure NATO allies in the wake of Russian interference in Ukraine. The U.S. Army has stated that the movement of equipment and deployments of small contingents of U.S. military forces is to achieve both tactical and communication objectives, rather than provide an actual deterrent to Russian forces.
Russia Today was reporting as early as March 9, 2015 that Latvia has received more than 120 armored units, including M1A2 Abrams tanks and M2A3 Bradley armored vehicles. The delivery coincided with drills involving the U.S., Latvian, and Polish militaries. The deployment of American troops was intended to be temporary, as a 1997 Russia-NATO agreement forbids NATO from having troops permanently stationed in the Baltic States (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia).
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter confirmed to CBS News on June 23, 2015 that the United States would station heavy equipment such as tanks and other weapons in new NATO member states for the first time since the end of the Cold War. The initial shift was to include 250 tanks, armored vehicles and other equipment. At the time of the report to CBS, the U.S. military hardware was scheduled to be deployed in Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. The deployment of the weaponry was intended to be permanent, and carried with it the promise of a larger troop and aircraft presence. On the same day, Reuters confirmed that the United States would pre-position tanks, artillery and other military equipment in Eastern and Central Europe.
On February 18, 2016 Daily Mail reported that the United States was to deploy tanks and other equipment within a Cold War era cave system in Norway. The six-cave facility is classified but was used by the United States as an arms depot in 1981 during the Cold War. The cave system was reported to contain enough equipment to support more than 15,000 Marines in the event of a potential crisis with Russia.
On February 19, 2016 CNN confirmed these reports about the deployment of equipment to Norwegian caves, revealing that the facility would be used to store battle tanks, artillery and logistics equipment. The equipment in the caves was reportedly used to support operations in Iraq. A portion of the equipment was reportedly to be used in the Cold Response 16 training exercise, which took place in February and March 2016. The Norwegian Armed Forces reported that participants included Belgium, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, and non-NATO members Finland and Sweden in addition to several units from NATO.