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U.S. To Conduct Military Drills In Poland, Estonia

As the Ukraine situation continues to move toward an outcome that seems hard to predict, the United States is about to send a message of sorts to Russia:

WASHINGTON — The United States plans to carry out small ground-force exercises in Poland and Estonia in an attempt to reassure NATO’s Eastern European members worried about Russia’s military operations in and near Ukraine, Western officials said Friday.

The moves are part of a broader effort by NATO to strengthen the alliance’s air, sea and land presence in Eastern Europe in response to Russia’s new assertiveness in the region.

It is not yet clear what additional troop deployments the United States and other NATO nations might undertake in Eastern Europe after the exercises and to what extent the moves would ease anxieties there.

The land-force exercises the Obama administration is planning are extremely modest.

The exercise in Poland, which is expected to be announced next week, would involve a United States Army company and would last about two weeks, officials said. A company consists of about 150 soldiers.

The exercise in Estonia would be similar, said a Western official who declined to be identified because he was talking about internal planning.

Although the exercises would be short, the United States is considering other ways to maintain a regular ground-force presence in Eastern Europe by rotating troops and conducting training there.

“There’s an entire range of possibilities and measures that are being considered,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday in a joint news conference with Poland’s defense minister, Tomasz Siemoniak. “Rotational basis of training and exercises are always part of that.”

As noted, these exercises are as much designed to reassure Eastern European members of NATO as anything else, but they strike me as an appropriate response to recent Russian actions.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook