Carter: US to provide weapons, aircraft, commandos for NATO

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TALLINN, Estonia (AP) -- The U.S. committed Monday to contribute weapons, aircraft and forces, including commandos, as needed for NATO's new rapid reaction force, to help Europe defend against potential Russian aggression from the east and the Islamic State and other violent extremists from the south.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the specifics of American contributions to the rapid reaction force a year after President Barack Obama made a commitment to such assistance at the NATO summit last year in Wales.

Carter said the U.S. will provide intelligence and surveillance capabilities, special operations forces, logistics, transport aircraft, and a range of weapons support that could include bombers, fighters and ship-based missiles. It would not provide a large ground force.

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Carter: US to provide weapons, aircraft, commandos for NATO
FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2015, file photo, U. S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter addresses the U.S. troops at the Incirlik Air Base near Adana, Turkey. A news report published Wednesday, Dec. 16, said Carter used a personal email account to do some of his government business during his first months at the Pentagon. (AP Photo/File)
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, left, shakes hands with Kurdish President Massoud Barzani at the presidential palace in Irbil, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015. Carter is visiting Barzani as well as U.S. troops to discuss the fight against the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Seivan M.Salim)
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - JULY 21: U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter waves as he boards a C-17 military aircraft at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, en route to a Jordanian Air Base. Carter is meeting with Jordanian troops and coalition officials involved in the fight against the Islamic State. (Photo by Carolyn Kaster - Pool/Getty Images)
AMMAN, JORDAN - JULY 22: U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter (2nd R) is greeted by Jordanian Armed Forces, Gen. Mashal al-Zaben, Special Advisor to his Majesty the King for Military Affairs and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (R) and members of the Jordanian Armed Forces as he arrives at the Jordan Armed Forces General Headquarters July 22, 2015 in Amman, Jordan. Carter is on a week long tour of the Middle East focused on reassuring allies about Iran and assessing progress in the coalition air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. (Photo by Carolyn Kaster-Pool/Getty Images)
Defense Secretary Ash Carter testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 17, 2015, before the House Armed Services Committeehearing on the U.S. policy and strategy in the Middle East. The effort to train Iraqi forces to fight Islamic State militants has been slowed by a lack of recruits and the U.S. will not meet its goal to train 24,000 by this fall, Carter said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, left, welcomes her US counterpart Ash Carter, right, with military honors for a meeting in Berlin, Germany, Monday, June 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, center, shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador to Germany John B. Emerson, left, after a wreath laying ceremony at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany, Monday, June 22, 2015. Carter, who is attending his first NATO meeting as defense secretary this week, said that the U.S. and NATO need to have a "strong but balanced" approach to deter Russia's military actions but at the same time needing Moscow to fight terrorism and hammer out a nuclear agreement with Iran. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter stands for a moment of silence after he laid a wreath at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany, Monday, June 22, 2015. Carter, who is attending his first NATO meeting as defense secretary this week, said that the U.S. and NATO need to have a "strong but balanced" approach to deter Russia's military actions but at the same time needing Moscow to fight terrorism and hammer out a nuclear agreement with Iran. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter lays a wreath at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany, Monday, June 22, 2015. Carter, who is attending his first NATO meeting as defense secretary this week, said that the U.S. and NATO need to have a "strong but balanced" approach to deter Russia's military actions but at the same time needing Moscow to fight terrorism and hammer out a nuclear agreement with Iran. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Defense Secretary Ash Carter waits to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 17, 2015, before the House Armed Services Committee hearing on the U.S. policy and strategy in the Middle East. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
ARLINGTON, VA - JUNE 11: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (2nd L) and Gen. Fan Changlong (L), Vice Chairman of the Chinese Central Military Commission of People's Liberation Army, listen to the U.S. national anthem as they participate in an honor cordon June 11, 2015 at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Secretary Carter held the honor cordon to welcome Vice Chairman Fan to visit the Pentagon. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 07: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter speaks to the media during a briefing at the Pentagon May 7, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. Secretary Carter talked about various issues including the situation in the Middle East and the Department of Defense budget request. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - MARCH 11: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (L) and the United Kingdom Secretary of State for Defense Michael Fallon hold a news conference at the Pentagon March 11, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. Carter and Fallon held a bi-lateral meeting to discuss many topics, including the ongoing campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and their countries' continued work to help the Ukraine government forces improve their capabilities in intelligence, communications, logistics and first aid. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT - FEBRUARY 23: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter speaks to troops during a question-and-answer session at Camp Arifjan on February 23, 2015 in Kuwait. Carter will chair a meeting on Monday of senior U.S. military officers and diplomats on the fight against the Islamic State group. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks with U.S. military personnel at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. Carter is making his first trip to visit troops and commanders in Afghanistan since his swearing-in this week. (AP Photo/Jonathan Ernst, Pool)
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, left, speaks with a soldier at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. Carter is making his first trip to visit troops and commanders in Afghanistan since his swearing-in this week. (AP Photo/Jonathan Ernst, Pool)
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks with U.S. military personnel at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. Carter is making his first trip to visit troops and commanders in Afghanistan since his swearing-in this week. (AP Photo/Jonathan Ernst, Pool)
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks with U.S. military personnel at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. Carter is making his first trip to visit troops and commanders in Afghanistan since his swearing-in this week. (AP Photo/Jonathan Ernst, Pool)
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, left, speaks with Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Gen. John Campbell, as they walk across the tarmac to board their plane to Kandahar, from the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. Carter is making his first trip to visit troops and commanders in Afghanistan since his swearing-in this week. (AP Photo/Jonathan Ernst, Pool)
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, left, speaks with Col. Viet Luong, after his arrival to Kandahar, Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. Carter is making his first trip to visit troops and commanders in Afghanistan since his swearing-in this week. (AP Photo/Jonathan Ernst, Pool)
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - FEBRUARY 21: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (C) is greeted with a military honor cordon as he arrives to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (not pictured) at the Presidential Palace on February 21, 2015 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Carter is making his first trip to visit troops and commanders in Afghanistan since he was sworn in. He will also meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images)
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - FEBRUARY 21: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (L) sits down to a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (R) at the Presidential Palace on February 21, 2015 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Carter is making his first trip to visit troops and commanders in Afghanistan since he was sworn in. He will also meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images)
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - FEBRUARY 21: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (2nd L) is greeted with a military honor cordon as he arrives to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (not pictured) at the Presidential Palace on February 21, 2015 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Carter is making his first trip to visit troops and commanders in Afghanistan since he was sworn in. He will also meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images)
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - FEBRUARY 21: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (L) meets with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (R) at the Presidential Palace on February 21, 2015 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Carter is making his first trip to visit troops and commanders in Afghanistan since he was sworn in. He will also meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images)
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - FEBRUARY 21: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (center left) is greeted with a military honor cordon as he arrives to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (not pictured) at the Presidential Palace on February 21, 2015 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Carter is making his first trip to visit troops and commanders in Afghanistan since he was sworn in. He will also meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images)
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - FEBRUARY 21: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (L) sits down to a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (R) at the Presidential Palace on February 21, 2015 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Carter is making his first trip to visit troops and commanders in Afghanistan since he was sworn in. He will also meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images)
US Secretary of Defense Nominee Ash Carter (L) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) speaks before a meeting on Capitol Hill January 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Secretary of Defense Nominee Ash Carter met to discuss Ash's nomination. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of Defense Nominee Ash Carter arrives for a meeting on Capitol Hill January 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Secretary of Defense Nominee Ash Carter met to discuss Ash's nomination. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Carter announced the new details in Munster, Germany, after meeting with defense ministers from Germany, Norway and the Netherlands. Those countries had agreed to provide the initial troops for the rapid reaction force. The U.S. had pledged to support the task force, but NATO has been waiting to hear specifically what America was willing to provide.

The U.S., with its massive military and high-tech capabilities, has generally carried the greatest load in NATO operations, including in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. U.S. officials made it clear early on that it would provide the enabling capabilities that other nations may not have, and not send ground forces, which other allies may be more able to do.

No final decisions have been made on the number of troops that could participate, or where they could come from. The officials said many of the forces could come from among the 65,000 U.S. military personnel already stationed in Europe.

But the plan could result in a temporary increase in U.S. forces in Europe in the event of a crisis, said U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss details of the agreement publicly.

No U.S. troops or equipment will move immediately, but instead they would be made available within 48-72 hours if requested, and approved by American leaders, in response to a crisis.

Carter said the U.S. is contributing aid "because the United States is deeply committed to the defense of Europe, as we have been for decades."

Carter also intends to talk with NATO counterparts in Estonia this week about a separate U.S. proposal to send enough tanks, Humvees and other military equipment to outfit one brigade in Eastern Europe, possibly Poland. The idea of placing such equipment in Eastern Europe as a means to reassure allies has been in discussion for months; Carter has yet to give his final approval.

Generally, a brigade has roughly 3,500 troops.

Carter's remarks in Munster came shortly after a speech in Berlin, calling for Germany and other NATO allies to stand together against Russia's aggressive behavior and other security threats in the region.

"We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot war with Russia," Carter said at Atlantik Brucke, a Berlin think tank that focuses on the German-U.S. relationship. "We do not seek to make Russia an enemy. But make no mistake: we will defend our allies, the rules-based international order, and the positive future it affords us. We will stand up to Russia's actions and their attempts to re-establish a Soviet-era sphere of influence."

He said that as Russia modernizes its military, it also is trying to undermine NATO and threatening to erode economic and security stability with its recent nuclear saber-rattling.

The Pentagon chief, who will attend his first NATO meeting as secretary of defense in Brussels this week, said he wants to lay out a two-pronged approach to allies, which involves bolstering Europe's military ability to deter Russia's military actions, while working with Moscow to fight terrorism and hammer out a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Carter's trip comes as the European Union extended economic sanctions against Russia until January to keep pressure on Moscow over the conflict in eastern Ukraine. And it follows Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement that he will add more than 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles that are capable of piercing any missile defenses.

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