US, allies flex military muscle in Baltic region

US, allies flex military muscle in Baltic region
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The U.S. military and its allies are conducting a massive training exercise in the Baltic region amid heightened tensions with Russia, the Pentagon said Monday.  

The exercise, called Baltic Operations, or Baltops, will include 2,000 U.S. troops and take place in Poland, Sweden, Germany and the Baltic Sea through June 20, Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said.

Sixteen other NATO and partner nations, including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom, will participate.  

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Those countries will send 3,600 troops. Approximately 49 ships, 61 aircraft and one submarine will participate in an operation that Warren said "is all to ensure regional security."  

The exercise comes as the U.S. and NATO seek to reassure Eastern European allies wary of Russian aggression. 

Russia has stepped up harassment of U.S. ships and assets in the region. In the latest incident, two Russian fighter jets buzzed the USS Ross, a destroyer, in the Black Sea on June 1.  

Warren said that no specific precautions have been taken in response to recent Russian interceptions.  

"Obviously, we are always aware of other nations who are not participating in the exercise and what their activities are, but this has no impact on our operations," he said. 

Warren said the annual exercise, now in its 43rd year, involves "air defense, maritime interdiction, submarine warfare and amphibious operations in a joint environment." 

It will also "demonstrate resolve of allied and partnered forces to defend the Baltic region," he added. The exercise began on June 5.