Don’t Forget About the U.S. Marines in Europe
Jarheads train friends and allies as Ukraine crisis roils
The Pentagon dramatically increased America’s military presence in Europe after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea region earlier this year. The Marine Corps has been an important—but largely unknown—part of this build-up.
Washington has worked hard to calm NATO allies and other European friends in the wake the Kremlin’s land-grab. Public attention has focused largely on deployments of tanks, paratroopers, commandos, fighter jets and heavy bombers.
However, a small task force of Marines has also trained America’s European partners in various combat skills—such as sniper drills in Romania, depicted in the picture below. The American amphibious troops have led at least four exercises since March.
The jarheads of the Black Sea Rotational Force—or BSRF—have practiced in Georgia, Latvia and Romania. Armenian, Bulgarian, Estonian, Lithuanian and Macedonian forces also trained at these events.
As its name implies, the BSRF is a rotating arrangement that varies in size and scope from year to year. Last year, around 300 Marines spent their six-month rotation training with personnel from 21 countries.
The Marines use Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania as their main hub. Last year, “MK” also became the major waypoint for troops and equipment heading to Afghanistan.
Every one of these exercises is an annual event with no direct connection to Ukraine, where the government continues to fight Russian-supported separatists. The BSRF has been running this broad training effort since 2010.
But the Pentagon is probably happy to use these annual partnerships as part of its new plan to show “America’s continued commitment to European security,” to borrow the military’s phrase. The Defense Department has renamed this mission Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The operation is the latest iteration of Washington’s response to Ukraine. Last month, Pres. Barack Obama had announced plans for what was described then as the “European Reassurance Initiative.”
NATO members Estonia, Lavtia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania are relatively close to the fighting. The Baltic States, with their own sizable ethnic Russian minorities, are also worried about the possibility of a similar Russian-backed uprising.
As a result, the Marines will likely see their responsibilities increase as the year continues. In fact, the Pentagon’s official Website on Atlantic Resolve already highlights BSRF activities in Romania.