Roughly 300 U.S. soldiers will join approximately 6,000 troops from 12 nations participating in an annual multinational training exercise in Ukraine later this month.
Rapid Trident 21 will take place from Sept. 20 through Oct. 1 and will prepare personnel from allied and partner nations for crisis response, according to a news release from U.S. Army Europe and Africa command.
Last year’s exercise only involved 4,100 personnel.
Soldiers from the Washington Army National Guard’s 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team have been deployed in support of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine since April. They’ll be joined by 150 other Army representatives who will participate as mission enablers.
The exercise is the final phase of a longer annual training exercise, which seeks to better prepare Ukrainian land forces for real-world defense challenges.
The exercise is a part of ongoing efforts to improve defensive capabilities in Ukraine, according to the Army. It comes less than a month after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s Aug. 31 meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the country’s defense minister, Andrii Taran.
The meeting focused on strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries — particularly in the wake of the Donbas war and annexation of Crimea. During their rendezvous, Austin and Taran signed the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Defense Framework.
The framework lays out bilateral defense goals and priorities set on a timeline running through 2026.
The framework’s strategic priorities include U.S. assistance in countering Russian activities, “including through a robust training and exercise program,” a primer document reads.
The laundry list of objectives aimed at boosting strategy and reform also spotlights cybersecurity and intelligence partnerships.
“The United States and our allies are committed to supporting Ukraine’s right to decide its own future foreign policy, free from outside interference,” Austin said in the August meeting.
September’s exercise will take place at the International Peacekeeping Security Centre near Yavoriv, Ukraine, and will follow COVID-19 safety measures, the news release said.