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U.S. Defender exercise to test Bulgaria and Romania Black Sea ports, connecting transport infrastructure

Constanta, Romania (PortSEurope) February 10 – Final planning is underway for this year’s major European Defender exercise on training for high-end warfare in the Balkans and the Black Sea, scheduled for late spring or early summer, the U.S. Naval Institute reported, quoting Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commanding general of U.S. Army Europe and Africa Command. It would take place around the Black Sea, waters that have
drawn an increased amount of American naval presence through freedom of navigation operations, and emphasize the use of high-end enablers in conflict. Particular attention will be paid to Romania, which is developing a Multinational Division for deployment, and Bulgaria, now receiving American advanced air and missile defense systems, he said. In December 2005, an agreement signed by Romania and the U.S. on the activities of the American forces stationed on the Romanian territory that assigns four locations for the U.S. troops – the army ranges at Cincu, Smardan and Babadag as well as the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, located 40 km northwest of Romania’s biggest Black Sea port city of Constanta. It started operations in February 2014. In April 2006, Bulgaria and U.S. signed an agreement for the use of military facilities in Bulgaria: Bezmer Air Base near Yambol; Novo Selo Shooting Range near Sliven; Graf Ignatievo Air Base near Plovdiv and Aitos Logistics Center which is 30 km west from Bulgaria’s second largest Black Sea port of Burgas. The Defender exercise series is designed to highlight “the swift response of the U.S. Army to deploy a large force” to the continent in a crisis. It is to serve as reassurance to U.S. allies and a deterrent to Russia. The specific threat came from the Kremlin’s seizure of Crimea and attempts to send Ukraine into civil war in 2014. “We’ve been very methodical where we’ve been pushing forces” to see what was available and the conditions in Eastern and Southern Europe, Cavoli said. In Eastern and Southern Europe, “the military infrastructure (was) designed for the (Soviet Union controlled) Warsaw Pact pointing westward.” Cavoli said this was true of highways, rail lines and bridges that could support Soviet-built equipment through the late 1980s, but now would have to bear the loads of 80-ton M1A-2 Abrams tanks when used in a crisis. In every exercise, Cavoli said there is a checklist of these areas to inspect and there is follow-up to see what was done to correct the problems that also exist in ports and airfields. Copyright (C) PortSEurope. All Rights Reserved. 2021.

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