Defence Secretary Michael Fallon welcomes US moves to ramp up military deployment in Europe
US plans to ramp-up its military presence in Eastern Europe against Vladimir Putin's 'sabre rattling' were welcomed by the Government today.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said Britain would support any decision by US president Barack Obama to deploy new missiles in Europe – and refused to rule out placing them in the UK.
Mr Fallon's remarks came as Nato looked set to agree plans this week for large-scale deployment of military kit in Eastern Europe – including the largest number of American tanks on the continent since the Cold War.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said Britain would support any decision by US president Barack Obama to deploy new missiles in Europe – and refused to rule out placing them in the UK
The move is set to be agreed at a meeting of defence ministers in Brussels on Wednesday – marking a 'turning point' in the alliance's policy towards Russia following the country's invasion of eastern Ukraine and annexation of the Crimea.
A senior Nato official told the Sunday Times: 'This will mark a real change of our collective defence: the US is coming back to Europe to play its role. The number of US tanks in Europe will reach a level not seen since the Cold War.'
Tanks, armoured vehicles, drones, weapons and a number of rotating troops will be deployed across countries including Poland and the three Baltic states.
The move would enable a rapid deployment of Nato forces in case of emergency.
Six Nato command and control centres are to be established from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south, to facilitate the rapid deployment of forces.
Nato ministers are also expected to agree on ways to help Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia
Mr Fallon's remarks came as Nato looked set to agree plans this week for large-scale deployment of military kit in Eastern Europe – including the largest number of American tanks on the continent since the Cold War
The meeting follows two weeks of large-scale Nato military drills on sea and land in the Baltic and in Poland, including the first deployment of the alliance's new spearhead force for rapid reaction.
Douglas Lute, the American ambassador to Nato, said ministers would agree on measures that would 'fundamentally change our force posture'.
Speaking this morning on BBC's Andrew Marr show, Mr Fallon said Mr Putin was 'clearly building up his conventional forces' and needed to be faced down.
He said: 'It is sabre rattling and that is why we have to continue to strengthen Nato – offer Nato more reassurance with these larger scale exercises.
President Obama is set to sanction biggest deployment of US tanks in Europe since the Cold War
'We are doing our bit, but it's very important we keep sending Putin this message – that we are determined to our collective defence of Nato.'
Asked if he supported the US move to weapons back to Europe, Mr Fallon said: 'That's a decision for the Americans, [but] if that's their decision, yes.'
He said Britain had not been asked to deploy weapons in the UK. He said: 'That's not been raised with me by the US defence secretary.'
Mr Fallon also insisted Britain would 'fulfil our commitments' to Nato amid questions over whether the Government will abandon the organisation's 2 per cent military spending target.
The Defence Secretary refused to commit explicitly to maintaining the outlay as a proportion of GDP.
But he urged people to look at the Government's record, and dismissed criticism that the UK was withdrawing from the international stage.
Speaking on the BBC, Mr Fallon said figures due out this week would confirm the 2 per cent threshold is being met this year.
Pushed on whether spending would remain at that level, he replied: 'I want us to fulfil our commitments.
'Our manifesto commitment was to spend more on equipment and I have described to you that we are modernising everything for the armed forces.
'It was also to replace our nuclear deterrent and it was also a commitment not to cut further the size of the regular army.'
Speaking this morning on BBC's Andrew Marr show, Mr Fallon said Russia's president Vladimir Putin was 'clearly building up his conventional forces' and needed to be faced down
Challenged that he and other ministers were 'weaving and dodging' on the issue, Mr Fallon said: 'The reason is very simple - we can't set the budget on this programme.
'We will set the budget for the three years of the parliament in September and then you will have your answer. But we already have three very strong specific commitments in the manifesto.
'Look at the record. We are doing 2 per cent at the moment.'
Mr Fallon's comments come after US president Barack Obama raised concerns that UK defence spending was set to fall below the Nato target.
The Prime Minister was tackled by Mr Obama on the topic during the G7 summit in Germany earlier this month.
Show of U.S. strength just miles from Putin’s borders: Thousands of troops conduct exercises by air, land and sea over Alaska amid mounting tensions with Russia
The sparse expanses above Alaska are a little more crowded this month as nearly 200 military aircraft are taking part in an annual training exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, around 3,000 miles from the border of Russia.
Nearly 6,000 military members from all four branches of the military, including airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines and coast guardsmen from active duty, reserve and national guard units are taking part in Northern Edge 2015, which includes naval exercises in the Gulf of Alaska and troops on the ground.
The training session is one in a series of U.S. Pacific Command exercises that prepares joint forces to respond to crises in the Asia Pacific region, according to the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson website. 'Northern Edge is the premier air combat training exercise for the joint forces,' said Lt. Col. Tim Bobinsky, who is helping lead the exercise.
Northern Edge is normally held every two years, but this is the first exercise since 2011. The government shutdown, or sequestration, forced the cancellation of exercises in 2013. The show of power runs from June 16 - 26.
Flying high: A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon conducts a training mission over the stunning vista of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex on June 16
Staying ready: A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon conducts a training exercise during Exercise Northern Edge 15. The state's vast open skies are perfect for aerial training exercises
Proud servicemen and women: Soldiers assigned to 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion line up to get ready to parachute jump out of an C-17 Globemaster III into Allen Army Airfield, Fort Greely, Alaska. Skies have been perfectly clear for the exercises
The U.S. Pacific Command exercise, coordinated by command leaders in Alaska, tests the readiness of the nation's troops and is not in response to any increased tensions with any other nation.
Bobinsky said that Alaska's vast open skies offer a unique place for training exercises that nowhere else in the world offers. Alaska also has large land mass and plenty of sea to accommodate maritime and ground forces exercises.
Alaska, the country's biggest state, is as wide as the lower 48 states and larger than Texas, California and Montana combined.
'There's no place like Alaska,' said Bobinsky.
Participants in NE15 sharpen their skills by practicing operations, techniques and procedures as well as get the opportunity to hone current and test future applications of combat operations and weapon capabilities.
A show of strength: A pair of F-15C Eagles take off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday while participating in Northern Edge training exercises
Standing proud: Lance Cpl. Jonathan L. Vega (pictured), from Miami, Florida, stands in front of an EA-6B Prowler while other Marines inspect the aircraft during Exercise Northern Edge 2015. NE15 offers a chance to test new military procedures and techniques
Coming in for a landing: U.S. Army engineers and combat engineers jump out of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft into Allen Army Airfield to execute airfield seizure operations on June 17. Thousands of military members from all branches take part in the exercise
Check up: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jessica Kerr conducts maintenance on a Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. NE15 was cancelled in 2013 due to the government shutdown forced over budget fighting
Readiness: U.S. Marines with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VMAQ) 2, conduct maintenance on the wing of a U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler at Eielson Air Force Base. Warmer weather than expected didn't deter the Marines
Three U.S. Navy destroyers and a submarine are taking part in simultaneous exercises in the Gulf of Alaska, but not without controversy.
Some people in gulf towns such as Cordova and Kodiak have protested the exercises, worried about what the Navy's presence might do to salmon and other marine life.
Despite record breaking temperatures in Alaska, which have been hovering in the low 70s, the warmer weather is a benefit for air training exercises.
'It is unseasonably warm up here, but hot for Alaska is still comparatively benign for the lower 48 states,' Capt. Richard Williams, a F-22 Raptor pilot, told Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson website.
'The heat itself hasn't really thrown us off but the clarity and the nice weather we are experiencing has simplified things greatly.'
On the prowl: A U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 sits on the flight line during NE15
Top gun: U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler aircrafts assigned to Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 are lined up during NE15. Alaska's huge skies are like no other place on Earth for military training, says Lt. Col. Tim Bobinsky
America's brave: U.S. Army Pfc. Christopher Machillo and Spc. Stephen Wendel practice searching for weapons and gathering intelligence from an enemy at Allen Army Airfield in Fort Greely during NE15
A show of might: A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker lands at Eielson Air Force Base following a training mission. Alaska offers beauty as well as practical reasons for military exercises
Getting ready to jump: Soldiers assigned to the 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion load up in preparation to jump from a C-17 Globemaster III into Allen Army Airfield
Not afraid of heights: Soldiers in the 517th Airlift Squadron's C-17 Globemaster III await their turn to parachute jump into Allen Army Airfield for a training exercise
Fighting formation: U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons conduct a training mission over the Gulf of Alaska, part of the Pacific Ocean. Alaska's water territory, far larger than any other U.S. state, is perfect for conducting military sea training
Preparedness: A U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle from the 67th Fighter Squadron takes off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson air base
Taking off: A U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle flies over Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson as part of NE15 in Alaska, which is the U.S.'s largest state with more water and land than any other
We made it: U.S. Army Soldiers head toward a hanger at Fort Greely after jumping from a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft and parachuting into Allen Army Airfield
They're back: A U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet from the Strike Fighter Squadron 147, Naval Air Station Lemoore, California returns from a practice mission during NE15 in Alaska
Touch down: A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., lands at Eielson Air Force Base following a training mission