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How the US encourages countries in Europe to abandon Soviet weapons

MOSCOW, (BM) – The Pentagon and the United States Department of State continue to collaborate on replacing Soviet and Russian weapons in Eastern Europe with American counterparts. This was announced by the official representative of the US Department of Defense, Colonel Juraj Orland.

The two departments are collaborating in the framework of the European Recapitalization Promotion Program, launched in 2018. To date, Washington has allocated about $ 277 million for its implementation. Aviation and ground equipment are purchased for this money.

However, according to experts, the United States will not be able to achieve a complete rejection of Soviet technology and make money on arms supplies.

U.S. Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Uriah Orland said the Pentagon is working with the Department of State to replace Soviet and Russian weapons in Eastern Europe. The officer’s words are quoted by Defense News, an American portal.

According to Orland, the United States Department of Defense “continues to work closely with the US Department of State in planning to assist our European security partners, which will allow them to reduce their dependence on the Russian defense industry (military-industrial complex), as well as build and / or maintain their own defensive capabilities.”

Defense News explains that the United States intends to focus on “targeted investments” under the European Recapitalization Incentive Program (ERIP).

This program was launched in 2018 by the State Department and the European Command of the US Armed Forces in order to accelerate the process of decommissioning of Soviet and Russian military equipment in the countries of Eastern and Southern Europe. States participating in the program can receive grants from Washington to purchase American weapons, provided that they allocate no less for these purposes and promise not to purchase new types of Russian weapons.

At the same time, it is not forbidden to buy components to maintain in good condition the existing Soviet and Russian equipment.

In a conversation with RT, Vadim Kozyulin, professor at the Academy of Military Sciences, senior researcher at the Center for Political Studies of Russia, believes that the Pentagon is unlikely to succeed in getting its partners to completely abandon Russian technology.

“Many countries of Eastern Europe have learned to modernize Soviet military equipment, somewhere there are production lines, personnel who are used to exploiting our weapons. Of course, part of the arsenal is outdated, but given that almost the entire region consists of poor countries, it is unlikely that expensive American weapons will ever completely replace Soviet ones,” said Kozyulin.

Targeted investments

Initially, ERIP included six states: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Croatia, Greece, Northern Macedonia and Slovakia. All of these countries, with the exception of BiH and Northern Macedonia (which is in the process of joining NATO), are members of the North Atlantic Alliance.

On March 17, the State Department’s Bureau of Political and Military Affairs published a newsletter stating that eight states are ERIP members – Bulgaria and Lithuania, which have been NATO members since 2004, have joined the program.

The document also reported that Albania, Bosnia, Slovakia, Croatia, Greece and Northern Macedonia received $ 190.7 million for the purchase of American aircraft and ground equipment. Bulgaria was allocated $ 56.2 million for the purchase of aircraft, and Lithuania – $ 30 million for the purchase of helicopters.

At the same time, the Defense News publication cites the words of an unnamed employee of the State Department, who claims that the money invested in the program over the past two years (about $ 277 million) provided for the sale of US arms worth about $ 2.5 billion.

According to Defense News reporters, the first six countries received financial support as part of the “first round” of funding. However, then the US authorities changed their tactics, switching to a “targeted investment” scheme, which should allow the United States to earn money on the conclusion of commercial weapons contracts.

The first state where the “targeted investment” tool was tested was Bulgaria. For several years, Sofia tried to find a replacement for Soviet aviation equipment (primarily the MiG-29). The country has chosen between importing new F-16 planes by the American Lockheed Martin corporation and buying used European fighters.

In particular, Bulgaria was considering the option of acquiring Portuguese F-16s, Italian Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft and Swedish Saab Gripens. The US State Department used $56 million in targeted investments to persuade Bulgaria to conclude a series of import contracts for eight new F-16s. The transaction value, taking into account the acquisition of related weapons and equipment, amounted to $ 1.673 billion.

The F-16 arrangements with the United States caused serious controversy within the country’s leadership. At the end of July 2019, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, who held the post of Air Force commander in 2014-2016, vetoed the conclusion of these contracts with Washington.

The head of state explained his position by insufficient elaboration of the terms of the transaction and a shortened procedure for parliamentary discussion. According to the president, such important issues as the guarantee obligations of the United States, the timing of the delivery of sets of purchased weapons, the payment of forfeit, etc., remained unclear in the contracts.

However, the National Assembly (Parliament) of the republic overcame the presidential veto and voted to ratify the four international treaties on the acquisition of American fighters.

Lithuania is another country where Washington used ERIP mechanisms to advance its commercial interests. Vilnius received $ 30 million from the US as “assistance” for the implementation of contracts to replace the fleet of Soviet helicopters with the UH-60 Black Hawk.

In addition, Defense News quotes a senior source in the State Department, who said that the United States plans to involve the Baltic countries and the Balkan Peninsula in ERIP, “developing the potential for ground mobility and helicopter systems, as well as possessing equipment (Soviet and Russian-made) from which refuse”.

The US will not earn money here

The draft budget for fiscal year 2021, which was prepared by the Donald Trump administration in February, says the need to increase spending on financing programs that allow US allies to abandon the use of weapons of other states and replace them with American-made models.

The draft budget provides for the expansion of the Foreign Armed Forces Financing Program, from which funds are allocated for ERIP.

In a conversation with RT, the editor-in-chief of Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine, Victor Murakhovsky, called ERIP one of the many tools of economic and political pressure of the United States on its allies. According to him, “the technical basis of the armed forces of Eastern European countries so far consists of Soviet models.”

“Through ERIP and other programs, the United States is linking Eastern European states to its military policy. But the amount of arms that the Americans supply to the region is crumbs from the NATO table. They are not going to invest large sums in the modernization of the armies of the allies, and they, in turn, due to a weak economy, cannot find money for a complete rearmament,” Murakhovsky explained.

Vadim Kozyulin also believes that the United States will not be able to capitalize on the defense needs of the former socialist countries. However, as the expert argues, with their financial interventions, Americans may well harm the local defense industry.

“Eastern Europe is a market for mainly used or not very modern military equipment. The countries of the region are tight-minded in their military spending, and the US will not earn serious money here. The maximum that the Americans can really achieve is to destroy the remnants of the local defense industry,” summed up Kozyulin.

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Editorial team / RT / Alexey Zakvasin, Elizabeth Komarova

The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.

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