The Pentagon is "poised" to station heavy weapons for up to 5,000 American troops in several Eastern European and Baltic countries to deter Russian aggression, The New York Times has reported.
The proposal, if approved, would be the first time since the end of the Cold War that the US has had heavy military equipment - including battle tanks - in newer NATO members that were once under Moscow's influence as part of the Soviet Union.
It underlines growing concerns in Eastern Europe and in Washington about Russian President Vladimir Putin's intentions after the annexing of Crimea and the actions of pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine.
The move, which still requires approval from the White House and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, would send a strong message to Putin that Washington is prepared to defend fellow NATO members that are in Moscow's shadow.
"The proposed 'prepositioned' stocks - to be stored on allied bases and enough to equip a brigade of 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers - also would be similar to what the United States maintained in Kuwait for more than a decade after Iraq invaded in 1990 and was expelled by American and allied forces early the next year," The New York Times said yesterday.
The Defense Department has made no related decision at this time, the Pentagon told the newspaper.