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U.K forces plan major war games in eastern Europe amid Ukraine crisis

  • 2014-07-29
  • From wire reports, RIGA

Great Britain on Monday announced major joint maneuvers in Poland in October, part of a string of NATO exercises in the region aimed at reassuring eastern Europe members jittery over a resurgent Russia, the AFP news agency reported yesterday.

"I can announce today exercise Black Eagle, which will be a significant Polish and UK armored exercise with over 350 British armored and other vehicles and some 1,350 British personnel," British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said in Warsaw.

The deployment will be the "largest British contribution to exercises in eastern Europe since 2008," he said at a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Poland's foreign and defense ministers.

Poland and the Baltic countries have asked NATO for permanent boots on the ground in the region amid the sharp escalation of fighting between Kiev government troops and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Presidents from nine ex-communist NATO members met in Warsaw last week to hammer out a regional defense strategy to re-enforce its eastern frontier in preparation for a key summit in September.

The NATO summit is expected to focus largely on the fallout from the Ukraine crisis and Russia's annexation of that country's Crimean peninsula.

Senior NATO officials have said decisions on the possible permanent deployment of alliance forces throughout its eastern flank can be expected in September.

"The Russia-Ukraine conflict is Europe's most important security challenge since the end of the Cold War," Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski has said. "Strengthening NATO's eastern flank is fundamental."

NATO has already sent additional temporary rotations of air, sea and land forces to Poland and the Baltic countries in response to the Ukraine crisis.

U.S. President Barack Obama in June earmarked a billion dollars in military funding for U.S. allies on NATO's eastern border.