The AP is reporting that the U.S. has possible plans to deploy a long-range Patriot Missile battery in Lithuania. This would be a first for the system in the Baltics. The potential deployment would be part of a planned U.S. air defense exercise and is purely a defensive measure in response to Russia’s planned Zapad military exercise later this year. There are concerns Russia is using this exercise to amass troops in the region. Russia could have as many as 100,000 troops in the region for the Zapad exercise by August 2017.
U.S. officials said the Patriot surface-to-air missile system could move into the region during the July air defense exercise, but it would be gone by the time a large Russian military exercise begins in August and September.
They said there will be a U.S. component to the air defense exercise, adding that the U.S. is not considering any long-term change to its air defense status in the region.
The potential placement of the Patriot system in Lithuania has been discussed since last fall. It would be the first time the system has been deployed in the Baltics.
The officials said the U.S. will keep a close eye on the Russian exercise, called Zapad, which will take place in Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, wedged between Lithuania and Poland, and the western section of the country. They said the U.S. will have an enhanced presence in the region at that time to monitor whether Russia uses the exercise as an opportunity to mass troops and equipment there and leave some behind when it’s over.
The officials, who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Russia could have as many as 100,000 troops in the region for the exercise.
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