An elite unit of the US Army is practicing for a potential war with Russia, just a few miles away from Ukraine, at a time when Russia’s defense minister Sergei Shoigu took the rare decision of holding telephone talks with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin to discuss the war on October 21.
The 101st Airborne Division of the US Army has been sent to Europe for the first time in almost 80 years amid rising hostilities between Russia and the NATO military alliance, which the United States commands.
The 101st Airborne Division is a modular infantry division of the United States Army that is particularly trained for air assault missions.
It gained notoriety during World War II for participation in the Battle of the Bulge and the Normandy landings. The 101st Airborne Division was reclassified twice during the Vietnam War, first as an airmobile division and then as an air assault division.
Brigadier General John Lubas, the division’s deputy commander, and Colonel Edwin Matthaidess, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, traveled in a Black Hawk military helicopter for the hour-long trip to the very edge of NATO territory, which is only about three miles from Romania’s border with Ukraine.
The development is significant as it comes against the backdrop of Ukrainian troops advancing into the annexed territory of Kherson. At the same time, the Russians are believed to have fortified the region to prevent Kyiv from retaking it.
In addition, both sides have been trading barbs with one another for trying to destroy the Nova Kakhokva dam and flood Ukraine.
On June 30, the Headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team uncased their flags and performed an air assault demonstration in Romania.
The ceremony was believed to have marked the beginning of the division’s advance deployment in Europe, aimed at bolstering NATO’s eastern flank and reassuring allies across the continent.
The US mission announced the news of deployment in August 2022 to NATO: “After 80 years, the 101st Airborne Division, known as Screaming Eagles, returns to Europe. Nearly 2,400 soldiers will be deployed to Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia to protect NATO’s eastern flank, reassure our Allies, and deter our adversaries.”
However, the timing of these drills so close to Ukraine during the war is significant. “We’re ready to defend every inch of NATO soil,” Brigadier Lubas told CBS News. “We bring a unique capability, from our air assault capability… We’re a light infantry force, but again, we bring that mobility with us for our aircraft and air assaults,” he said.
Russia has gone on a never-before-seen aerial raid against Ukraine, hitting civilian settlements, deliberately targeting energy infrastructure, and causing widespread power outages.
Russian troops are hell-bent on capturing Mykolaiv and Odesa’s key Ukrainian port cities and cutting off Kyiv’s access to the Black Sea.
To ‘combat’ the threat of Russia taking these port cities by using its advantage over Kherson, the most elite air assault units from the US have been dispatched with some heavy machinery.
The NATO country of Romania, where the 101st airborne division is based, is close to Kherson and the port cities that Kyiv is protecting.
American Preparedness & The 101st Unit’s Drill’s Overlooking Ukraine
As part of the drills in Romania, the American and Romanian troops engaged targets during a joint ground and air assault exercise after skirmishing north along the Black Sea coast of Romania. The tank rounds and artillery fire were real.
The exercise was designed to simulate the conflicts between Russian forces and Ukrainian soldiers occurring daily across the border. The war simulations being held so close to the border aimed to send a strong message to Russia and America’s NATO partners and implied that the US Army was present just across the border and watching very closely.
Roughly 4,700 soldiers of the elite 101st Airborne Division are now stationed near the front line in Ukraine — the largest deployment of the unit in Europe since WWII.
U.S. soldiers at the base told CBS News that they are “ready to defend every inch of NATO soil” if necessary. pic.twitter.com/MCaIjAYae8
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) October 21, 2022
A total of 4,700 soldiers from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the home base of the 101st Airborne, have been sent to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank. The “Screaming Eagles” leaders repeatedly stated that while they are in the region to defend NATO territory, they are completely prepared to cross the border into Ukraine if the combat intensifies or if a NATO country comes under attack.
However, while on one side of Ukraine, there is the 101st airborne division ready to hit in case of a contingency, on the other side is Russian ally Belarus which has been overtly and covertly helping the Russian troops in the ongoing war. Three MiG-31 warplanes capable of launching hypersonic missiles were spotted over the Belarusian capital.
A PERILOUS GAME: As RU troops and equipment arrive in Belarus, Putin increases pressure on Lukashenko to enter the war. The people of Belarus are overwhelmingly against it. Should invasion happen, it’s unknown if Lukashenko’s troops will support their RU allies– or turn on them. pic.twitter.com/4ECfxntZY6
— Chuck Pfarrer | Indications & Warnings | (@ChuckPfarrer) October 20, 2022
The Ukrainian military sources have warned that Russia could use Belarus to launch a northern front in the conflict in Ukraine.
As part of a “joint force” that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko agreed to deploy in the country bordering Ukraine to the north, up to 9000 Russian servicemen, nearly 170 battle tanks, 200 armored personnel carriers, artillery, and aircraft are currently arriving in Belarus.
While some experts have pointed out that the Russian President’s rhetoric seems to be softening, the threat from Moscow is far from over for Kyiv.