In response to Russia's recent actions in Ukraine, the U.S. military will send about 600 soldiers to several nations on the Baltic Sea for training and exercises over the next week.
The first company of soldiers (members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade) will arrive in Poland on Wednesday, officials said.
Three additional company-size units will deploy to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for similar infantry training and exercises. They will be in place in all four countries over the next week.
Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby said the bilateral exercises were a result of Russia's actions in Ukraine.
Kirby added that "since Russia's aggression in Ukraine" began, the U.S. has constantly been looking at ways to reassure U.S. allies and partners.
"These particular exercises were conceived" as result of what's going on in Ukraine, he said. He emphasized that these are bilateral, not NATO exercises.
These soldiers will be in country for about one month, and then replacements will rotate in. Kirby described this as a "persistent rotational presence" that could go beyond the end of this year. He added that this model could extend beyond these four countries.
Meanwhile, Sweden's government on Tuesday proposed increasing the Nordic country's military spending by $830 million a year in response to the Ukraine crisis.
The four-party center-right coalition said it is deeply concerned by the recent events in Ukraine and wants to raise the military outlays gradually in coming years to reach the proposed figure by 2024.
Among other things, it wants to buy 10 more fighter jets and two more submarines to improve the defense of the Baltic Sea and the island Gotland.
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Sweden's defense budget was slashed and its military emphasis shifted toward international peacekeeping operations. Now, however, both the left-leaning opposition and the government agree that the country's military readiness is inadequate.
— with the Associated Press
First published April 22 2014, 10:43 AM