The Pentagon considers sending up to 5,000 soldiers, heavy artillery and tanks to Eastern Europe in response to Russian support for Ukrainian separatists, the New York Times said Saturday.

If carried out, this will be the first time since the Cold War that the United States sends mechanized infantry to NATO’s extended borders in Eastern Europe as a dissuasive power.

It would also be the most serious step taken as yet by the United States in response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and Moscow’s support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, a country long in the realm of Russian influence but which since 2014 has been strengthening its bonds with the West.

NATO has already stepped up military exercises on its eastern borders and has expanded surveillance by air and sea.

Since NATO extended its borders in 2004 to include the Baltic republics – Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania – the United States has avoided making any permanent deployment in the area bordering on Russia.

The level of troops and military equipment being considered would be similar to the amount kept for a decade in Kuwait following the Iraqi invasion that led to the first Gulf War in 1990, the newspaper said.

The proposal, a symbol of the commitment to the collective defense of NATO countries, must be approved by Defense Secretary Ash Carter with the support of U.S. President Barack Obama.

This go-ahead could come before the meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels at the end of this month.

Some European partners have been reticent during the crisis to enter into such mobilizations, which could push Russia to an escalation of its role in the conflict. EFE