VIDEO: NATO Launches Large-Scale War Games near Russia Borders ahead of Key Summit

Wed Jun 8, 2016 17:19:24

NATO began the biggest exercise in Poland on its eastern flank since the end of the Cold War with a parachute drop involving over 2,000 allied troops on Tuesday, Al-Alam News Network reports.

The military training exercise Anakonda 16, involves more than 20 NATO and partner countries. 500 paratroopers from the U.S. 82 Airborne Division were mobilized and departed from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to join forces from other countries in a coordinated parachute drop.

"The interoperability and the collective readiness of NATO forces is what this all about at the operational and tactical level. At the strategic level, it's all about NATO having the capability to ensure that it remains free and independent for all member states," said U.S. Army Chief Of Staff, Lieutenant General Mark Milley, who observed the jump in allocation near Torun.

"[T]hey were alerted 25 hours ago. They flew across the Atlantic Ocean. They conducted mission command and planning while crossing the Atlantic Ocean and then conducted an airborne insertion here on this drop zone today in a simulated response to a contingency operation." 230 British paratroopers from a U.S. base in Ramstein in Germany joined the drop along with Polish paratroopers, who took off from Krakow.

"They're coming from three different locations. So in order to put those three trains together in mid air is a tough thing to coordinate. Our joint force has done a phenomenal job in that planning in that coordination to put that together, because that is not easy," said commander of the U.S. 82 Airborne Division, Major General Richard Clarke, after parachuting in with his troops.

For more than 10 days, 30,000 troops backed by large numbers of vehicles, aircraft and ships will be deployed in exercises that are likely to put further strain on the already-tense relations between the Kremlin and the West.

The Anakonda-16 exercise, which includes maneuvers such as a night-time helicopter assault and the dropping of U.S. paratroopers to build a temporary bridge over the Vistula river, is being held one month before a NATO summit in Warsaw that will approve more troops to be stationed in eastern Europe.

The United States provides around 14,000 troops for the exercise, the largest foreign contingent. Non-NATO countries such as Sweden and Finland are also taking part in the exercise.

Poland joined NATO in 1999, a decade after the demise of Moscow-backed communism in Eastern Europe. Warsaw has been very critical of Moscow's actions in Ukraine and has repeatedly urged NATO to boost its presence on Polish territory.

Russia has accused the U.S-led alliance of threatening its security by expanding eastwards and has warned of retaliation.

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