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US Army reactivates artillery command after 30 years as Russian troops amass near Ukraine

U.S. Army Pershing II missiles. (U.S. Army photo/Released)
November 05, 2021

The U.S. Army announced on Wednesday that it will be reactivating a European theater artillery command that had been defunct for the past three decades. The announcement comes as Russia has amassed some 90,000 troops on Ukraine’s border.

In a Wednesday press release, the U.S. Army’s Europe and Africa theater command announced the upcoming reactivation of the 56th Artillery Command, with a reactivation ceremony scheduled for Monday, November 8.

“The reactivation of the 56th Artillery Command will provide U.S. Army Europe and Africa with significant capabilities in multi-domain operations” said Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Maranian, Commanding General, 56th Artillery Command.” It will further enable the synchronization of joint and multinational fires and effects, and employment of future long range surface to surface fires across the U.S. Army Europe and Africa area of responsibility.”

The 56th Artillery Command was last active between 1986 and 1991, when it was in charge of the European theater’s nuclear-capable intermediate-range Pershing field artillery missile systems. The unit was deactivated in June 1991 after the U.S. and Russia signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The INF Treaty prohibited the possession, production and testing of missile systems like the Pershing field artillery missile system and rendered the 56th Artillery Command obsolete in the process.

President Donald Trump let the INF treaty lapse in 2019, citing frequent Russian violations of the agreement. With the treaty no longer in effect, the U.S. is free to build up intermediate-range nuclear forces once more. The 56th Artillery Command’s reactivation comes as the Army is already looking to expand its arsenal of long-range artillery systems, to counter near-peer adversaries such as Russia and China.

The reactivation comes amid an ongoing Russian military buildup near its border with Belarus and Ukraine.

On Monday, New York Times reporter Christiaan Triebert tweeted, “Satellite image taken today by @Maxar reveals presence of a large ground forces deployment — incl. tanks, APCs, self-propelled artillery — to a training area north of Yelnya, Russia.”

By Tuesday, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry estimated around 90,000 Russian troops were located “near the border and in the temporarily occupied territories,” CNN reported.

More than 100,000 Russian troops had gathered on the Ukrainian border in March and April. In late March, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) reportedly raised its threat levels in Europe to a “potential imminent crisis.”

After the weeks-long troop buildup in the spring, Russia claimed its forces would draw down, but some reports estimated as many as 80,000 troops remained in the border area and troops that did leave the area left trucks and armored vehicles behind, indicating they could rapidly return if ordered to do so.