At any given moment, the United States military is actively engaged in multiple combat theaters around the globe, fighting, advising, or providing support in nations on every continent to ensure America and its allies continue to fight the important battles of today. Despite the massive operational commitment America’s foreign policy dictates for its armed forces, however, Defense officials must continually keep their eyes on the horizon, and ensure America’s military trains not only for the fights it’s already in, but for the fights that may be to come.
Such was the case in Latvia over recent weeks. As Russia concluded their massive Zapad ’17 drills, which saw an estimated 40,000 Russian and Belarusian troops simulate an attack on the Baltic region from Belarus and Kaliningrad, NATO leaders braced for the unlikely possibility that the drills could precipitate an actual war. The chances that Russia’s drills could incite some sort of international incident last month were slim, but in areas like the region surrounding the Suwalki Gap, where Russian forces would need to capture only a narrow stretch of land about 65 miles long to cut Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia off from NATO support, the understanding that Russia’s preparations could eventually lead to such an offensive means NATO must have a response prepared.
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