WASHINGTON – About 3,000 U.S. soldiers from the Georgia-based 3rd Infantry Division will deploy to Eastern Europe beginning next week, to conduct training exercises with forces from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the Pentagon said Monday.
The deployment is part of an ongoing U.S. military troop rotation aimed at bolstering support for NATO allies who are worried about escalating aggression by Russia.
Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters that about 750 U.S. military tanks, helicopters, and other vehicles and equipment arrived in Riga, Latvia, on Monday, as part of the deployment. Much of the heavy equipment is expected to stay in the region, as the U.S. continues to rotate troops in and out of the Baltics.
The Defense Department has announced plans to reduce its overall permanent basing in Europe. But at the same time, it is ramping up its program to send military units on short-term deployments across Europe for training and exercises. Over the past year, the U.S. has sent a variety of troops, including special operations forces, to exercises and training program in Eastern Europe, including Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Those nations are particularly concerned about potential threats from Russia in the wake of Moscow's annexation of Crimea and the ongoing fighting between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country.
The 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division soldiers, based at Fort Stewart, will take over as the 2nd Cavalry Regiment leaves this month. The brigade is expected to be in the region for military exercises for about three months.