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U.S. military leader favours permanent bases on NATO’s eastern flank

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The highest-ranking military officer in the U.S. has come out in favour of establishing permanent bases in NATO countries in Eastern Europe.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley appeared before Congress on Tuesday, his first appearance since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Milley said he expected an increased U.S. presence in the region for some time.

“My advice will be to create permanent bases but don’t permanently station, so you get the effect of permanence by rotational forces cycling through permanent bases,’’ he said.

He said this would have the advantage of establishing a permanent military presence by sending forces for shorter rotations rather than permanent deployments of two or three years.

Years that require moving families alongside troops and housing them and providing schooling.

Russia strongly opposes a permanent stationing of NATO combat troops in the Eastern European states, citing an agreement from the 1990s.

European allies, including the Baltics, Poland or Romania, are very, very willing to build and pay for bases for U.S. troops, Milley said.

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin added that NATO was still discussing how it should bolster its permanent presence in eastern Europe.

“If NATO deems that it’s appropriate to change its footprint, then certainly we’ll be a part of that,’’ Austin said.

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