About 600 paratroopers from the Army’s 173rd Infantry Brigade were headed to Poland and the Baltic states Tuesday to shore up NATO allies during the Ukraine crisis.
Pentagon officials said that 150 of the "Sky Soldiers" from the 173rd based in Vicenza, Italy, would deploy to Poland on Wednesday. By the weekend, additional 150-troop units were to be on the ground in each of the Baltic states -- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia -- for joint training with local forces, the officials said.
"The message is to the people of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia is that the U.S. takes seriously its obligations to European security," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.
At a Pentagon briefing, Kirby stressed that the deployments were a U.S. action and were being ordered by Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove in his role as head of the U.S. European Command and not as the Supreme Commander of NATO.
In another move to deter Russia, the Navy announced that the Aegis destroyer Taylor was entering the Black Sea Tuesday to replace the destroyer Donald Cook "to promote peace and stability in the region."
The presence of the Cook prompted official Russian to charge that the U.S. was attempting to move missile defenses closer to Russia.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at email@example.com