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NATO chief: convoy of US troops tests skills and bridges

March 31, 2015

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — NATO’s supreme commander in Europe said Tuesday that a convoy of U.S. troops crossing eastern Europe is a way of reassuring allies of the military alliance’s support and of practicing little-used skills.

The exercise tested many things that “hadn’t been done for a long time in NATO ... like multiple border crossings and which bridges are capable of handling the vehicles,” Gen. Philip Breedlove said during a visit to Bucharest.

The “Dragoon Ride” convoy started last week from Estonia and passed through Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, before entering the Czech Republic on a return journey to a German base.

In a campaign on Facebook and pro-Russia media, activists condemned the convoy, pledging to stop it. But opponents were clearly outnumbered by those who came to three border crossings Sunday to welcome the troops.

The convoy got a warm welcome in Poland and the Baltics — NATO members worried that the conflict in Ukraine threatens their security.

The soldiers took part in the Atlantic Resolve exercise intended to demonstrate NATO’s readiness to defend its members.

Breedlove discussed the missile defense system with Romanian officials. There are bases planned in the Romanian town of Deveselu, which will become functional this year and another in Poland.

NATO decided in January to set up command-and-control centers in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria by the end of 2016 in response to challenges from Russia and Islamic extremists and to reassure eastern partners.

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