The US will devote a substantial portion of its defense spending to building up its military presence in Eastern Europe in an effort to deter Russian aggression in the region, Obama administration officials told The New York Times.
Countries belonging to the NATO alliance in Central and Eastern Europe will apparently receive heavy weaponry, tanks, and other equipment from the US, which quadrupled its budget from $789 million to more than $3.4 billion for military spending in Europe through 2017.
"This is a really big deal, and the Russians are going to have a cow," Evelyn N. Farkas, the Pentagon's top policy official on Russia and Ukraine until October, told The Times on Tuesday. "It's a huge sign of commitment to deterring Russia, and to strengthening our alliance and our partnership with countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia."
The move comes four months after Russia launched an air campaign in Syria to prop up embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a move widely seen as an attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to secure and expand Russia's influence in the Middle East.
Russia's presence in Syria, however, has "undermined" virtually everything the West is trying to accomplish there and beyond, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in an interview with Reuters from a refugee camp in Jordan on Monday.
That includes the US's attempts to bolster "moderate" Syrian rebel groups, which have been targeted by Russian airstrikes, and the US-led anti-ISIS coalition's attempts to wipe out the Islamic State in Syria, which has largely been spared the brunt of Russia's punishing air campaign.