The US military has completed a $11.2 million project to upgrade an Estonian military base belonging to the North Atlantic treaty Organization (NATO), amid ongoing tensions between the US-led military alliance and Russia.
Washington spent the money on building new sniper and machine-gun shooting ranges, maintenance facilities and a train loading area at the Tapa army base, which is located 80 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of the Estonian capital of Tallinn and is controlled by the US military.
Major General John Gronski said Thursday that the facelift at the Tapa army base symbolized NATO’s “strength and resolve” in the Baltic region.
The upgrade was part of Washington’s commitment to NATO’s growing deployments of weapons and troops to its eastern frontier with Russia.
The base has been used by American forces for training purposes and will host 800 British infantry and 300 French troops next year.
NATO had announced in July that it would deploy, on a rotational basis, four multinational battalions to Poland and the Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—to deter what it referred to as “any Russian incursion.”
NATO has stepped up its military buildup near Russia’s western borders since it suspended all ties with Moscow in April 2014 after Crimea re-integrated into the Russian Federation following a referendum in the Black Sea peninsula.
Russia, which is wary of the increased presence of NATO troops close to its borders, has pledged to respond accordingly to any threats posed by the Western alliance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in June that Moscow would take adequate measures to counter NATO’s increasingly “aggressive rhetoric.”
The ties became further unfriendly over the crisis in Syria, where Russia has been conducting an air campaign at the request of the Syrian government to fight Daesh since September 30, 2015.