Defender-Europe Begins In Estonia, NATO Surprised Russia Has Forces Along Its Own Border

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Defender-Europe Begins In Estonia, NATO Surprised Russia Has Forces Along Its Own Border

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On May 5th, the Defender Europe series of exercises began at the Central Range of the Estonian Defense Forces.

It included live firing of multiple launch rocket systems, and in the evening of May 6th American paratroopers will land at Nurmsi airfield, the press service of the Estonian Defense Forces said.

Defender Europe is the largest US Army exercise series in Europe in 25 years. The maneuvers cover 16 countries. In Estonia, defending the country in times of crisis will be practiced through the Swift Response exercise.

Hundreds of paratroopers will take part in the largest landing in the history of Estonia, equipment and heavy equipment are dropped from planes, and the operation itself can take two or three hours.

Around 2,500 troops from Estonia, the United States and Great Britain will take part in the maneuvers. They also involve more than 20 aircraft and 25 helicopters. The Estonian side is represented by the Defense League squads (Viru, Alutaguse and Järva), the Special Operations Forces, the 1st Infantry Brigade, the Logistics Service and the Air Force.

Defender-Europe 21 involves about 28,000 U.S., NATO and partner militaries from 26 nations conducting live fire exercises, airborne operations, missile defense activities and a multitude of complex, bilateral operations simultaneously.

To outfit an operation of this scale requires a lot of equipment. Several hundred pieces of equipment were shipped to Europe from the U.S. by cargo vessel, but over 1,000 pieces were drawn from the 405th Army Field Support Brigade’s Army Prepositioned Stock-2 sites here in Europe.

Despite it being the largest exercise, and it being held next to Russia’s borders, there is still surprise that Moscow is keeping some of its forces position along its own border.

The New York Times reported that senior Defense officials estimated around 80,000 Russian troops were still at the Russia-Ukraine border, though a few thousand have been withdrawn.

An unnamed NATO official also told The Wall Street Journal that troops had been withdrawn, but noted many weapons had remained.

“So Russia’s military presence remains higher than it was before the recent escalation,” the official told the Journal.

A Ukrainian official told the WSJ that Putin was playing a long game and was waiting for Western support of Ukraine to falter.

US President Joe Biden said on May 4th that he hoped to meet with Putin during an upcoming June trip to Europe for a Group of Seven (G-7) summit.

“That is my hope and expectation. We’re working on it,” Biden told reporters.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that he would be visiting the Ukraine by May 9th. He is scheduled to meet with Ukrainian officials including President Volodymyr Zelensky and foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Blinken will “reaffirm unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression,” according to the State Department.

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