U.S. Army Photo by Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. is sending about 600 Army soldiers to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — all Russian neighbors — for bilateral training exercises prompted by the situation in Ukraine.
Company-sized elements of about 150 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne based in Italy will be placed in each of the countries for infantry exercises that will take place between now and the coming months. The first group of troops will arrive in Poland on Wednesday.
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters at a Pentagon briefing Tuesday that the goal is to a have “a persistent rotational presence in these exercises,” which will last about a month. The soldiers will then be rotated out with fresh troops for additional exercises that will last the rest of the year.
Kirby acknowledged that these are new exercises that have been developed with the four countries as a result of the situation in Ukraine.
“These exercises were conceived and added onto the — added onto the exercise regimen as a result of what’s going on in Ukraine,” he said.
He said the message was to the people of the four countries “that the United States takes seriously our obligations under Article 5 of the — of the NATO alliance even though these aren’t NATO exercises.”
As for a message to Russia, Kirby said the exercises send the same message: “We take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe.”
He called the exercises “a very tangible representation of our commitment to our security obligations in Europe and the messages to the people of those countries and to the alliance that we do take it seriously.”
He said the U.S. encouraged other NATO countries to do the same.
As for Russian intentions for the Baltic region, Kirby said, “You need to ask [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin what his intentions are. What I’ll tell you is that nothing we’ve seen out of Moscow, nothing we’ve seen out of Russia or their armed forces, is de-escalating the tension, is making things any more stable in Ukraine or on the continent of Europe.”
Kirby also announced that in coming days the frigate USS Taylor will replace the destroyer USS Donald Cook that has been sailing in the Black Sea for exercises with partner nations. He was hesitant to use the term replace as he noted that the U.S. does not have a continuing presence in the Black Sea.
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