BUDAPEST (Reuters) - The United States could send Bradley fighting vehicles and M1 tanks to Hungary next year for military exercises as part of NATO’s response to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the Napi Gazdasag newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Press officials for the Hungarian Defence Ministry and the U.S. embassy in Budapest could not comment immediately on the report in the pro-government daily, which described the deployment of the equipment as a temporary relocation.
It did not specify how it obtained the information.
The Hungarian government spokesman’s office said Hungary had not received an official request from the U.S. to deploy heavy weaponry in Hungary. However is said it would make sense for some military equipment to remain in Hungary between exercises.
“There is serious training cooperation between the Hungarian and U.S. armies, therefore, it would be a logical step if heavy weaponry needed for the exercises, such as armored carriers, should not be transported back at the end of an exercise, but would be stored temporarily in Hungary,” the office said in an emailed reply.
Napi Gazdasag said the option to station tanks in Hungary, Ukraine’s western European Union neighbor and a former central European communist satellite, emerged during a February visit by Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe.
The paper said U.S. forces would also take part in the Brave Warrior exercise in Hungary with Stryker fighting vehicles as well as in a joint crossing exercise on the Danube river planned in the autumn.
With East-West tensions running at their highest since the Cold War era, NATO has made clear it will not intervene in Ukraine but will bolster the defenses of nervous eastern allies who were under Moscow’s domination for four decades until 1989.
U.S. officials said last month that Washington planned to store heavy military equipment in the Baltics and eastern European nations to reassure allies unnerved by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and to deter further aggression.
In February, NATO defense ministers agreed to set up a network of command centers in eastern Europe and more than double the size of a rapid reaction force to better protect the region in the event of any threat from Russia.
Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Dominic Evans