US military forces have begun a so-called cavalry march across Romania, in a not-so-thinly-veiled signal to Russia, which opposes the expansion of the NATO military alliance in Europe toward its borders
This article originally appeared at Press TV
The US military march across Romania, which began on Wednesday, involves over 350 soldiers and 80 army vehicles supported by the US Air Force.
US Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Johnson said in a statement, “This event will demonstrate our strong relationship with Romania and our ability to move freely along interior lines across the NATO alliance.”
However, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said the military convoy aimed to demonstrate interoperability between NATO member states.
The march began in the southeast from Mikhail Kogalniceanu Air Base, an airport allegedly used by the US for the CIA’s secret detention and rendition programs, to the Romanian Land Forces Combat Training Center in Cincu in the central part of the country.
The US troopers are to arrive at the combat training center on Thursday, where they will join Romanian, Canadian and British counterparts. A total of 1,500 troops from the four NATO nations will then hold war games in the area between May 15 and June 6.
The military drills will be the latest of numerous exercises conducted by the Western military alliance over the past year in Eastern Europe amid the crisis in Ukraine.
NATO conducted some 200 military exercises in the region in 2014 and has promised to hold additional ones this year.
In addition, NATO has announced plans to expand its military presence in the region. In February, the defense ministers of NATO’s 28 member states agreed to establish six new command and control posts in the Eastern European countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.
NATO also decided to set up a new headquarters in western Poland to support northeastern member states as well as a similar site in Romania for members in southeastern Europe.
The United States and its European allies accuse Russia of destabilizing Ukraine. Moscow has repeatedly rejected the accusations and has frequently condemned NATO’s exercises and military buildup toward its borders.
Promotional video for the march by US Army: