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More military exercises to kick off amid fears about Russia

WASHINGTON — Two large multinational exercises will kick off this week amid fears about a resurgent Russia, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.

Beginning Thursday, about 160 U.S. troops will participate in Combined Endeavor, an annual exercise that U.S. European Command described as “the largest command, control, communications and computers interoperability event in the world.”

The Defense Department could not immediately provide the unit assignments or other additional details about the participating American forces.

The war game, which involves 1,200 troops from 31 NATO and NATO partner-nations, will take place in Grafenwoehr, Germany, and a forward operating site in Iceland.

EUCOM said the purpose of Combined Endeavor is to improve interoperability among participating militaries and prepare nations to “collaborate, plan and execute complex C4 systems in crisis response and combat operations.”

Northern Coasts, which kicks off Friday, is a Finnish-led maritime exercise in the Baltic Sea region. This year, the U.S., Canada, Germany and Denmark are slated to participate alongside Finland.

The exercise is “a fictive crisis-management operation taking place at sea and along the coast,” according to the Finnish Defense Forces.

Approximately 50 ships, aircraft, and about 3,000 people will participate, including airborne and special operations troops, according to the Finnish Defense Forces. The U.S. contingent will consist of 12 sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8, based in Rota, Spain. They will be involved in underwater counter-mine and counter-IED training, according to the Pentagon.

Both exercises are scheduled to conclude Sept. 12.

The U.S. and NATO have enhanced their exercises and force rotations in Central and Eastern Europe since Russia annexed part of neighboring Ukraine earlier this year. Moscow continues to provide extensive military support to a pro-Russia separatist movement there, including firing artillery at Ukrainian military forces, according to Western and Ukrainian officials.

A dozen F-15s and approximately 180 personnel from the 493rd, based at RAF Lakenheath, England, are in Bulgaria participating in a two-week bilateral training exercise with the Bulgarian air force.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced that about 600 soldiers from the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas, will deploy to Poland and the Baltic States in October for a three-month series of land warfare training exercises, which will involve M-1 Abrams tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and armored personnel carriers.

On Wednesday, NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance is planning to boost its presence in Eastern Europe by pre-positioning supplies and equipment and enhancing infrastructure. The initiative would facilitate the influx of a rapid response force in the event of a crisis with Russia, according to news reports.

harper.jon@stripes.com
Twitter: @JHarperStripes

 

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