US to station up to 600 troops to Baltics for Russia’s Zapad exercise

Commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, said that the U.S. would station three units of altogether up to 600 troops across the Baltic countries for the duration of the large-scale Russian military exercise Zapad taking place this fall.

Hodges told Reuters on Friday that the U.S. is worried about a possible Russian aggression during the Zapad exercise in September. “When (Russia) went into Crimea, that was against the backdrop of an exercise. When they went into Georgia, that was an exercise”, Hodges said.

“Their history is full of examples where they don’t live up to any treaties … They routinely violate those things,” he said during a NATO exercise in Poland.

Hodges said that he was concerned that the Russian exercises could lead to provocative action on the Baltic border. He said the United States would deploy three units altogether of up to 600 troops across the Baltic States for the duration of Zapad 2017. “We are all working hard to be at the highest levels of readiness during exercises like this,” Hodges said.

Russia has rejected Western concerns that its Zapad 2017 war games will upset the security situation in the region. NATO officials believe Zapad could involve more than 100,000 troops this year, which would make it the biggest since 2013.

The U.S. is to send a company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade to Estonia for the duration of the large-scale joint Russian-Belarusian military exercie Zapad in September.

A company-sized unit of the U.S Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade, which is based in Vicenza, Italy, is to arrive in Estonia at the end of August, military spokespeople in Tallinn told BNS. The unit will consist of approximately 150 soldiers.

Zapad is an annual joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise which is scheduled to be held from Sept. 14-20 this year. In 2009 and 2013, attacking the Baltic states and Poland was allegedly practiced.

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