- Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke
In January, a US Army brigade of nearly 3,500 troops and 2,700 pieces of heavy equipment arrived in Poland in the largest deployments of US troops and armor to that country.
The brigade came with a simple mission – integrate with the Polish army and deter Russia on all fronts.
“Russian aggression takes many forms,” Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of the US Army in Europe, told NBC News.
“Cyber, misinformation, threatening other countries, Russian snap exercises. We’re serious – this is not just a training exercise. It’s to demonstrate a strategic message that you cannot violate the sovereignty of members of NATO … Moscow will get the message – I’m confident of it. “
The combine US and Polish forces immediately started training with tanks, artillery, and helicopters in an overt show of force.
Meanwhile, US soldiers in Lithuania had just finished a similar exercise. Estonia, Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary will all also see US troops deployed on a rotational basis.
But the US assurance to vulnerable NATO states in the Baltics comes after a years-long Russian military buildup. Current and former US generals have expressed doubts about NATO’s ability to deter or stop an outright attack from Russia, and a report from the think tank RAND Corp predicts that Russia could seize control of the Baltic States within 36 hours of a blitz-like invasion.
However, experts around the world have noted Russian aggression via softer hybrid means like cyberattacks and misinformation campaigns could also be used against NATO nations in Eastern Europe.
Additionally, Donald Trump has criticized NATO as being ineffectual and obsolete, sowing doubts among European leaders of whether or not the US would come to the aid of embattled European allies.
For now, US forces will train, eat, and sleep alongside their European allies, meaning that a Russian attack of any sort on the Baltics will draw an immediate reaction from the US.