US troops march through Latvian town, woo border guards with arms & equipment (VIDEOS)
Around 160 US and Latvian paratroopers followed by armored vehicles paraded through towns near the Russian border, in the two-day Latvian leg of NATO’s Baltic drills. Troopers were seen showing off US equipment to border guards and kids.
The march kicked off on Tuesday, February 7 and concluded on Wednesday as part of the exercises dubbed Bayonet Vanguard. The drills took place all across the Baltics, said to be aimed at enhancing cooperation between Latvian and US soldiers, who were to prove their skills in winter conditions.
At the march’s final destination, the city of Rezekne, located just 63 kilometers (39 miles) west of the Latvian-Russian border. The US military was filmed marching and then showing off to locals with an open air equipment showcase staged in a local park.
In a video uploaded by YouTube user sirokez, armored vehicles, tanks, and Humvees are displayed in the snow, while several children eagerly climb inside. One even shoulders a MANPAD (Man-portable air-defense system).
The troopers are then seen offering several female border guards helmets with night and thermal vision optics to try on, as well as a bulletproof vest, both of which seem to amaze them.
As deployment of dozens of soldiers and heavy machinery into a city of 30,000 might have caused apprehension among residents, the Latvian authorities warned citizens in advance.
The military drills, known as Bayonet Vanguard, took place in Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia from February 6 to 9. Each leg of the exercises included a 50-kilometer march with US and host country troops.
The drills, along with the recent buildup of US-NATO forces and armored vehicles in eastern Europe, was said to serve as proof of Washington’s commitment to European security in the face of alleged Russian “assertiveness.”
Moscow has described the deployments of NATO tanks and troops close to the Russian border as a “threat,” saying that they “gravely increase the risk of incidents.”
“This deployment is of course a threat for us,” Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Meshkov said in an interview with RIA Novosti. “And who said that it will end with this? We don’t have such information.”