WARSAW, Poland — Poland has kicked off its joint multinational exercise with heavy US Army participation in order to test readiness and interoperability using 31,000 soldiers from 24 countries, 100 aircraft, 12 vessels and 3,000 vehicles.
The US Army's role in the biggest Polish national exercise called Anakonda will include a multinational air assault and airborne operations as well as bridging operations and live fire, command post, field training, cyber and electronic warfare exercises led by the 4th Infantry Division Headquarters.
Among some of the key activities, the Army's 82nd Airborne Division will conduct an airborne operation into the Torun training area to secure terrain east of the Vistula river and the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command will conduct electronic warfare exercises in the Utzka training area in support of air defense artillery brigade maneuvers that will include live fire exercises.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Monday during the opening ceremony that the single purpose for the Army in Anakonda is to demonstrate that the US Army is "shoulder to shoulder" with Poland, its army and NATO "to ensure that all countries of NATO remain free and independent."
He added the forces participating in the exercise are doing so to "ensure mutual defense and deter aggression and in particular we need to work on our collective skills of interoperability and readiness."
During the opening ceremony, Antoni Macierewicz, the Polish defense minister, took pains to stress the exercise has a "purely defensive character," noting the "difficult circumstances" in Poland and along the Eastern flank.
Poland and the countries that border Russia are becoming increasingly concerned with Russia's aggression in the region as it continues to provoke Ukraine and occupy Crimea. Many Baltic countries fear Russia's provocative behavior will spread to inside their own borders.
Macierewicz added that the Polish military would "especially" like to evaluate cooperation in the context of hybrid warfare on land and sea and with special forces.
Russia's continued attacks on Ukraine have been characterized as hybrid warfare.
As Anakonda kicks off, there is a concern regarding how Russia will react to the military activity and if the country will view it as provocative.
US Army Europe Commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges addressed the concern stating, "The West wants and needs Russia back into the international community and there are several things that Russia could do almost immediately that would help facilitate that, particularly improved transparency for their own exercises."
When considering whether a country's military activity is provocative, it's important to note Russian occupation of Crimea and its operations in Eastern Ukraine as well as its positioning of troops in South Ossetia, Hodges added.
The commander noted that Poland invited Russia to attend the exercise as observers but "unfortunately they turned down the invitation. I hope that they will change their mind, they would be very welcome."
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.