The US plans on holding its largest European military exercises in 25 years

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A U.S. Marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) carries cold weather equipment as he begins to march across the Icelandic terrain October 19, 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Capt. Kylee Ashton)

MONS, Belgium (Reuters) - The United States will send 20,000 troops to Europe next April and May in its biggest military exercises on European soil since the Cold War to underscore Washington's commitment to NATO, a senior allied commander said on Tuesday.

Days after a NATO summit in London at which U.S. President Donald Trump called low-spending European allies "delinquent", U.S. Major General Barre Seguin said the exercises, centered on Germany, will be the largest of their kind in 25 years.

"This really demonstrates transatlantic unity and the U.S. commitment to NATO," Seguin, who oversees allied operations from NATO's military headquarters in Belgium, told Reuters.


Eager to deter Russia from any repeat of its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, the U.S. Army will test its ability to transport the soldiers across the Atlantic to Belgium and the Netherlands and then move quickly east through Germany into Poland and along NATO's eastern flank.

The soldiers will join U.S. personnel stationed across the continent, as well as militaries from 18 NATO allies, to mass around 37,000 troops, before returning to the United States, in an echo of the 'Return of Forces to Germany', or 'REFORGER' maneuvers, of the 1980s.

"We have not demonstrated this ability to rapidly reinforce, from a transatlantic perspective ... for 25 years or so," said Seguin, saying he recalled the REFORGER maneuvers as a boy in school in Germany.

NATO has already sent battalions to the Baltics and Poland to deter potential Russian incursions but now aims to be able to sustain any military operations. European governments are also spending more on making troops combat-ready.

Russia says it has no intention of attacking NATO and accuses the alliance of destabilizing Europe.

While French President Emmanuel Macron has questioned the U.S. commitment to NATO because of Trump's unrelenting criticism of allies, the U.S. president has also confounded Europeans by strengthening America's military presence in Europe.

Seventy years since its Cold War-era founding as an alliance focused on Moscow, Russia's efforts to undermine Western democracies through cyber attacks, disinformation campaigns and covert operations have given NATO a renewed sense of purpose.

The U.S. military has also put countering China and Russia at the center of national defense strategy, shifting priorities after focusing on the fight against Islamist militants.

"We're going into an era of strategic competition in peacetime," Seguin said. "The alliance has reorientated."

Soldiers from the 1-118th Field Artillery Regiment of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team fire an M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in Southern Afghanistan, June 10th, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jordan Trent)

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Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.

Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.

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Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Navy and Marine Corps need to be a bit more short-sighted when assessing how many ships they need, the acting Navy secretary said this week.

The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.

"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.

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"He just he just had that personality that you can go up to him and talk to him about anything. It was goofy and weird, and he always had jokes," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Lopez, a fellow base patrolman. "Sometimes he'd make you cry from laughter and other times you'd just want to cringe because of how dumb his joke was. But that's what made him more approachable and easy to be around."

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