Much has been said about the Trident Juncture 2018 NATO exercise being held in the immediate vicinity of Russia’s borders. This is the largest training event since the Cold War, but it’s only part of a broader picture, in which military war preparations targeting Russia are in full swing.
Exercises are being coordinated, along with infrastructure facilities that are being built, expanded, and modernized. For instance, last week the construction of an aircraft maintenance hangar at Estonia’s Amari Air Base, the first military project fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), was completed.
The event was celebrated by US and Estonian air force officials with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. More than $38 million in EDI funds are being invested in that base. Beyond the training, a joint maintenance facility will also support the NATO aircraft that are conducting air policing in Eastern Europe. The Air Force Times cited US Air Forces Europe Commander Gen. Tod Wolters, who promised that even more funding was coming down the pipe for other projects. “Looking into fiscal year 2019, we are proposing a [European Defense Initiative] budget that demonstrates the US commitment to NATO,” he noted. According to him, “Our total [US European Command] request includes a significant funding increase from $4.7 billion to $6.5 billion."
The NATO infrastructure modernization plans include upgrades to the Kecskemet Air Base in Hungary so that it can accommodate US F-15 fighters, A-10 attack planes, and C-5 transport aircraft, in addition to building a munitions storage facility at Malacky Air Base, Slovakia and a taxiway at Rygge, Norway. These steps are part of a larger effort to prepare for offensive operations against Russia.
The fiscal 2018 defense budget authorizes the US Air Force secretary to purchase land and build installations in other countries. There are plans to invest some $214 million into air bases in Europe, including a $13.9 million investment in Estonia’s preeminent military air base, Amari, plus the Lielvarde Air Base in Latvia is to receive a $3.85 million investment. The biggest chunk of the money, $67.4 million, goes to the Sanem Air Base in Luxembourg. The Kecskemet Air Base in Hungary will get another $55.4 million investment.
To all this can be added the US Army Prepositioned Stocks (APS) for permanent storage in Europe that have been modernized and replenished since 2017. The APS will be sufficient for another armored brigade to fall in on. The militarization of Northern Europe is underway and Poland is being rearmed and prepared to host American bases, such as Fort Trump. The US Air Force is expanding its presence on the European continent, along with NATO’s growing naval might in the Black Sea.