This summer, United States Army engineers have spread out across Eastern Europe to help American allies build roads and training facilities to reassure them of U.S. commitment to the region.
As Vladimir Putin postures more and more aggressively, many countries near Russia grow more fearful still of what they interpret as Russian nationalist imperialism.
Poland, for instance, is seeing a dramatic rise in the number of volunteer militias in the country.
“We can see that Russia is going in the direction of restoring the influence it had at the time of the Soviet Union,” Tomasz Siemoniak, Poland’s defense minister, said.
“If that is the case then the situation is not over by any means with Crimea and it will move on to the territories of other countries, that will either be targeted by aggression or by some other measures taken by the Russian federation, so we have to be ready,” he further explained.
Almost $70 million was set aside for the European Reassurance Initiative, which began in May and will end in September. Its goal is to reassure Eastern Europeans that the United States is committed to their national sovereignty and will do what it takes to reinforce them as a bulwark against Russian expansionism.
Recently, for example, representatives from the U.S. military held a training exercise at an ex-Russian facility in Latvia.
During the training, U.S. Army engineers reviewed topics, including explosive breaching and building clearing techniques with local troops.
U.S. soldiers also worked with Moldovan counterparts to improve that country’s communication infrastructure.
“The Moldovan military obtained great training in radio, voice over internet protocol technology and satellite communications,” Moldovan Army Capt. Ion Cebotari, a technician with the Moldovan Signal Battalion, said of the project.
“Despite the fact that our equipment is different, we were able to bridge technologies on both tactical radios and digital communications,” he continued.
Even though most nations have welcomed the United States openly, the fact that this project is taking place across so many countries presents its own challenges.
Laura Loftus, the deputy chief of staff, engineer, for U.S. Army Europe, said:
Army engineers have been working extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan, and because of the nature of being in those conflicts, it is a little different doing construction in that type of environment and you come back and now you’re working in six different sovereign nations.