US military exercises in Europe that were suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic will go ahead next month but in a scaled-back format, the Army said Wednesday.
US-Polish exercise Allied Spirit, originally planned for May, will see the mobilization of 6,000 soldiers from the two countries from June 5-19 at the Drawsko Pomorskie base in the north of Poland, the army said in a statement.
“All COVID-19 precautionary measures will be taken to ensure the health and protection of participating armed forces and the local population,” it said.
The 4,000 US soldiers that will take part had already traveled to Europe for Defender-Europe 20, the biggest US military deployment in Europe in 25 years.
But the pandemic prompted the Pentagon to freeze all US military movement around the world.
The new exercise will feature a Polish airborne operation and a US-Polish division-size river crossing.
By the time US troop movements to Europe were halted in early March, more than 90 percent of the equipment earmarked for Defender-Europe 20 had been loaded on aircraft or ships bound for Europe.
More than 6,000 soldiers and 3,000 pieces of equipment arrived in Europe, and over 9,000 vehicles were moved to training areas in Germany.
“Overall, despite the adjustment to the exercise due to COVID-19, many of the strategic readiness objectives were met,” the army statement said.
Over the coming months, more exercises will be held to use the resources mobilized for Defender-Europe 20, which originally called for the dispatching of 20,000 US troops as far afield as Ukraine and the Baltic states.
This amounts to a daunting logical challenge and a special deployment that reflects the strategic upheaval triggered by Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.