- The Washington Times - Monday, May 3, 2021

The U.S. Army this week will kick off a series of major artillery drills across Europe and northern Africa, sending a clear message to Moscow amid a buildup of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border.

Pentagon leaders said the exercises, dubbed “Fires Shock,” will continue over the next six weeks with drills in Estonia, Germany, Poland, Bulgaria and Morocco. Military officials said the initiative will demonstrate that the U.S. and its allies are capable of projecting power throughout Europe.

“From towed artillery to long-range rocket systems, U.S. Army Europe and Africa has the organic ability to rapidly deliver precision fires to support our joint force and NATO allies anywhere in Europe and Africa,” said Brig. Gen. Christopher Norrie, commanding general of 7th Army Training Command. “These exercises demonstrate our ability to command and control long-range fires across continents, using a variety of networked and multi-domain communications platforms.”

Long-range fires are a key component of the Army’s 21st-century battle plan. Victory in any potential conflicts with Russia or China will almost surely rely on America’s ability to strike enemy targets from great distances.

The Fires Shock exercises come amid renewed Russian aggression toward Ukraine. While Russian forces reportedly have begun to pull back from the Ukrainian border, there are still thousands of troops in the area — the most since 2014, when Moscow forcibly annexed Crimea.

Biden administration officials say the situation remains worrisome and that it’s unclear what Russian President Vladimir Putin may do in the coming weeks.

“I can’t tell you that we know Mr. Putin’s intentions,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday evening. “There are any number of things that he could do or choose not to do.  What we have seen in the last few days is apparently a decision to pull back some of those forces, and we’ve some of them, in fact, start to pull back.”

“We’re watching that very, very closely,” Mr. Blinken said. 

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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