Closure of US Bases in Europe Not to Affect Military Capabilities: Official

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US defense official said that the reduction of the number of US military bases in Europe will not have an effect on the European Reassurance Initiative.

WASHINGTON, January 9 (Sputnik) – The reduction of the number of US military bases in Europe will not have an effect on the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), launched by the United States to boost the military capabilities of its allies in Eastern Europe amid the Ukrainian crisis, a US defense official has told journalists.

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"This [military base consolidation] effort is over two years in the making, and the ERI, of course, is something that — that President Obama asked for these additional funds last summer from the Congress," Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Derek Chollet said at a press briefing Thursday, stressing that these are "totally separate processes".

Chollet explained that the United States will use the funds allocated for the ERI to fund its military presence and continue exercises in Europe.

"So the $1 billion — nearly $1 billion that we've received from our Congress at the end of last year will enable us to have some infrastructure improvements in facilities that we use for our rotational presence, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe; also help fund a robust exercise schedule," the official explained.

The increased funding came amid deteriorating relations between Russia and NATO over the Ukrainian crisis and the build-up of NATO forces along Russia's border. The West has been accusing Russia of meddling in Ukraine's internal affairs and supporting independence fighters, who refuse to recognize the new Kiev government which came to power as a result of a coup in February last year.

Russia has repeatedly denied the claim, expressing concern over the build-up of NATO forces in Eastern Europe.

On Thursday, the Pentagon announced plans to close 15 US military bases in Europe that would be offered over to their host nations. According to the Pentagon, the restructuring will help save $500 million annually.

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