American commanders in Europe continue to draw from roughly $1 billion in contingency funding that Washington hopes would reassure nervous allies over Russia’s “aggression” in Ukraine, according to a report.
Much of the contingency funding, approved by the US Congress in December, has been earmarked for improved infrastructure, rotation of forces in the Baltics and Ukraine, increased Navy deployments to the Black Sea, military exercises as well as bunkered weapons, Stars and Stripes reports.
About a quarter of the funding goes to the rotation of an Army heavy armored brigade. The US Air Force’s decision to maintain a squadron of F-15 fighter jets in Lakenheath, England, at a cost of about $110 million, also represents another significant amount of the contingency funding.
US military officials are preparing to update Congress on recent spending under the $985 million European Reassurance Initiative, which has been funded outside the Pentagon’s base budget.
The US military is requesting almost $800 million for the coming fiscal year.
“I think everyone’s aware that, especially with infrastructure, some of this will have a tail that goes beyond (Fiscal Year) 2016,” one defense official told the newspaper on condition of anonymity.
The US Army said in a statement Thursday that about 300 US troops arrived in Yavoriv, western Ukraine, on Tuesday and Wednesday to train the Ukrainian National Guard.
The troops will spend six months for the so-called training mission, during which three battalions of Ukrainian troops would be trained.
The Kremlin has reacted strongly to recent moves by the United States.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu are seen during an expanded meeting at the Defense Ministry in Moscow, Russia, 27 February 2013. (file photo)
“The United States and its allies have crossed all possible lines in their drive to bring Kiev into their orbit. That could not have failed to trigger our reaction,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told an annual security conference in Moscow on Thursday.
Russia says Washington is responsible for the escalating tension in Ukraine through sending arms in support of the Ukrainian army.
Western governments, however, have long accused Russia of destabilizing Ukraine by supporting pro-Russian forces in the eastern regions.