The U.S. will send more than 600 troops for a training mission in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday.
The deployment of — primarily — U.S. Army airborne infantry will kick off a month long series of exercises in the region with the NATO member countries, Kirby said.
The move by the U.S. is in direct relation to the destabilization of Ukraine, Kirby told reporters. He was quick to say that the exercises were bilateral with the individual nations and the U.S. and not a larger NATO plan.
“It’s more than symbology,” Kirby was quoted in The Hill.
“[It’s] real infantry training, and that’s not insignificant.”
The first troops to arrive in the region will be from the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) as early as Wednesday. The 173rd will move about 150 troops into Poland with another 450 troops to move to the other Baltic regions. The unit is stationed in Vicenza, Italy
The troops will be the first of a “rotational presence,” the Pentagon could extend into the end of the year, Kirby said.
During the press conference Kirby called for Russia to remove troops from its border with Ukraine.
Tensions in the Baltics and Poland have been high since Russian forces seized the Crimean region of Ukraine and ethnic Russians along Ukraine’s eastern border have sowed unrest.
Like Ukraine, all four countries were once part of the former Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact and have since joined NATO.
The U.S. has been on a campaign to reassure allies in the region of the U.S. commitment to the region. U.S. ships have patrolled the Black Sea and Vice President Joe Biden has made several diplomatic visits to Eastern Europe.