Britain's military sent five tanks down the 30-mile Channel Tunnel to determine if it would be an effective route to deploy forces in Europe amid tensions between Russia and NATO, NBC News reported on Sunday.
The British Army said the timing was merely coincidental with Donald Trump's inauguration, but the move highlighted growing concern among European allies about the Russian threat and the doubt about the United States' commitment to its security.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said remarks by Trump regarding NATO and Russian President Vladimir Putin have caused "astonishment" and "agitation" across the continent.
Trump called the NATO alliance “obsolete,” suggesting he would not honor NATO's central premise that an attack against one member state would be seen as an attack against all, and has also in the past praised Putin.
"We cannot trust Trump to take care of [Europe's] security," Josef Braml, a transatlantic expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, told NBC. "If Trump cuts a deal with Putin, then maybe there will be fewer tanks, American tanks, on European soil and we should prepare for that scenario.”
Some European leaders are worried that if Trump tries to placate Putin by lifting sanctions placed on Russia over its annexation of Crimea, the Russian leader may become more emboldened and start interfering in other former Soviet countries.
The Telegraph reported that the exercise, which was planned a year in advance, comes as the UK explores new ways to rapidly deploy armor from Great Britain once it closes its bases in Germany.
Russia’s Col. Alexander Zhilin, a military expert who heads the Centre for the Study of Applied Problems of National Security, criticized the British drill as “fear mongering,” adding that it was “a cheap kind of PR” to counter “the spurious allegations that Russia is about to attack Europe,” the Sunday Express reported.
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