About 2,000 NATO troops are conducting a large-scale military training exercise with an airborne operation in the Polish central city of Torun.
As part of the biggest Poland-led exercise in the country since the 1989 end of communism there, troops parachuted Tuesday into a training area of the city with the objective to secure a bridge on the Vistula River.
U.S. troops of the 82nd Airborne Division flew in from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. British troops came in from a NATO base in Ramstein, Germany, while Polish troops arrived from a base in Krakow, in southern Poland.
More than 20 NATO member states began the 10-day, Anakonda-16 exercises as part of efforts to reassure central and eastern European countries concerned by Russia's actions in eastern Ukraine.
In total, the exercises will involve 31,000 troops, 3,000 vehicles, 105 aircraft and 12 Navy ships
The Kremlin denounced the exercises, saying they do not contribute to an atmosphere of trust and security on the continent.
The operation is transparent, with international observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as Russian observers, having been invited, the Polish military command said on its website.
"The Anakonda military exercise is an exercise which aims to test the capabilities of the alliance member states to defend the territory of the eastern flank of the alliance," said Polish defense minister Antoni Macierewicz.
U.S. Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Mark Milley, says the U.S. has a "single purpose" in the operation and that is to "demonstrate that we are shoulder to shoulder with the Polish people, we are shoulder to shoulder with the Polish army and we are shoulder to shoulder with NATO, to ensure that all of the countries of NATO remain free and independent."
Tensions between Russia and the West are at their highest point since the end of the Cold War. Though NATO has not ruled out further expansion – a move vehemently opposed by Russia – the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says "the Cold War is history and we want it to stay that way."