WARSAW - The U.S. is to station three units of up to 600 airborne troops across the Baltic countries for the duration of the large-scale Russian military exercise Zapad taking place this fall, the commander of U.S. Army Europe, Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, told Reuters on Friday.
"When (Russia) went into Crimea, that was against the backdrop of an exercise. When they went into Georgia - that was an exercise", he said.
"Their history is full of examples where they don't live up to any treaties ... They routinely violate those things," Lieutenant General Hodges said during a NATO exercise in Poland.
Hodges said he was concerned that the Russian exercises could lead to provocative action on Baltic borders, therefore, the U.S. would deploy three units of up to 600 airborne troops across the Baltic states for the duration of Zapad 2017.
"We are all working hard to be at the highest levels of readiness during exercises like this," Lieutenant General Hodges said.
Russia has denied Western concerns that its Zapad 2017 war games will threaten stability in Eastern Europe. NATO officials believe the exercises could involve more than 100,000 troops, the biggest such Russian maneuvers since 2013.
Three U.S. exercises will be underway at the same time as Zapad, in Sweden, Poland, and Ukraine, and a U.S. armored brigade team is already deployed in Europe.