KYIV, Sept 14 – The U.S. has slashed the number of troops participating in an annual multinational training with Ukraine by more than half compared to last year, the Army Times reported.
More than 4,000 troops from nine participating countries will participate in the U.S. Army Europe-led Exercise Rapid Trident 20 taking place September 16-25 at the International Peacekeeping Security Centre near Yavoriv in Ukraine.
Rapid Trident 20 will include a brigade-level command post exercise and limited platoon-level tactical training. The exercise aims to enhance security cooperation and coordination between the U.S., Ukraine, and other partner nations.
While this year’s exercise has hundreds more troops in total than the 3,700 that conducted Rapid Trident 19, the number of U.S. participants is less than half of the 375 U.S. Army soldiers and civilians who participated last year. Approximately 175 U.S. Army military and civilian personnel are supporting Rapid Trident 20, including 160 Illinois National Guard soldiers from the Task Force Illini, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
The National Guard has a long-standing training partnership with Ukraine that dates back to 1993, when the inaugural State Partnership Program assigned the California National Guard to develop closer military ties with the post-Soviet state. The Rapid Trident exercises have been a key part of that partnership for more than twenty years.
Rapid Trident and other similar multinational efforts in Ukraine have become more important since the ouster of pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych in late 2013 and the subsequent outbreak of hybrid war with Russia in 2014.
According to February 2020 UN estimates, more than 13,000 people, including approximately 3,350 civilians, 4,100 Ukrainian military personnel, and 5,650 Russia-backed fighters/Russian forces have died in the stalemated ground war in the country’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Russia also openly occupies Crimea, which it seized by a surprise infiltration at the war’s start.
The war with Russia spurred the Ukrainian government to seek closer defense cooperation with the U.S. and NATO militaries. U.S. European Command partnered with the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense in 2015 to establish the JMTG-U and the training center in Yavoriv in order to facilitate the Ukrainian Ground Forces' transition from Soviet-style tactics and doctrine to NATO-aligned methods of fighting. (at/ez)