The annexation of Crimea by Russia in spring 2014 and the war in eastern Ukraine resulted in the fact that the Obama administration was compelled to rethink the situation and ultimately led to the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), which includes Operation Atlantic Resolve. The aim of ERI is to expand the US presence in Europe again, whereby Operation Atlantic Resolve will particularly increase US troop presence in the eastern European countries through a rotation of an ABCT. Originally limited to the year 2015, the ERI evolves into a new long-term US commitment in Europe. The provided financial resources increased from one billion US dollars in 2015 to an impressive 3.4 billion US dollars for 2017. Almost 2/3 of this budget flows into the maintenance and expansion of stationed equipment (tanks, artillery, ammunition, etc.) in western Europe, which can, if necessary, be transferred to eastern European countries. Furthermore, 28 joint-multinational exercises are planned under the auspices of the ERI for 2017 which, taken together, will encompass 18,000 US troops and 45,000 NATO and PfP Partners, for a total of 40 countries. (U.S. European Command Public Affairs Office, “European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) Fact Sheet“, January 5, 2017; Mark F. Cancian and Lisa Sawyer Samp, “The European Reassurance Initiative“, Center for Strategic and International Studies, February 9, 2016).
Because of the NATO-Russia Founding Act, the United States has renounced a permanent stationing of its forces in eastern Europe and therefore uses rotation, which takes place in a cycle of nine months. This began with the 3rd ABCT of the 4th Infantry Division from Fort Carson, Colorado, which arrived in Bremerhaven, Germany in January this year. The group includes among other things, approximately 3,500 soldiers, 87 tanks, 18 M-109A6 “Paladin” howitzers, 419 HMMWVs and 144 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. This is the largest transfer of armoured vehicles from the US to Europe since the end of the Cold War. Parts of the 4th Infantry Division command is stationed in Baumholder, Germany and the units of the 3rd ABCT was deployed from the beginning of February to Poland at sites in various Eastern European countries (US Army Europe Public Affairs Office, “Atlantic Resolve Fact Sheet“, 4 January 2017). Also in February, the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade from Fort Drum, New York, including an aviation battalion from Fort Bliss in New Mexico and Texas featuring a total of around 10 Chinooks, 50 Blackhawks, 24 Apaches and 2200 soldiers was moved to Illesheim, Germany. Some of these helicopters are being integrated in task forces in Lithuania, Romania and Poland.