U.S. Troops Headed To Poland, Baltic States
In what is quite obviously intended as a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the United States is sending troops to Eastern Europe:
The U.S. is sending about 600 ground troops to Eastern Europe this week to “reassure” allies there as Washington resumes its campaign of pressure on Russia over the Ukraine standoff.
About 150 soldiers from the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), based in Italy, are heading to each of four countries — Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — in rotational deployments that the Pentagon says will be sustained until further notice.
The paratroopers will take weapons and ammunition for “infantry exercises” and be in place by the end of the week, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon. The roughly company-sized units will remain in place for about a month, and then new ones will follow them until at least the end of the year.
While President Barack Obama has ruled out the use of force to resolve Russia’s military incursions into Ukraine, the Army deployments are a way to show America’s European allies, as well as Moscow, the level of its concern about what Kirby called “Russian aggression.”
“We take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe,” Kirby said.
He said the Sky Soldiers of the 173rd would take part in bilateral exercises with the militaries of their host countries, as opposed to having been deployed under the auspices of NATO. But he said that more deployments or operations involving NATO could be in the works and urged reporters against concluding that bilateral action by the Defense Department was a sign of some NATO members’ unwillingness to make deployments of their own.
The Pentagon will not send additional soldiers to Europe to replace the troops rotating into Eastern Europe, Kirby said.
This is largely a symbolic move, of course. The question becomes what the West does if Putin doesn’t back down.