U.S., Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine in military exercise targeting Belarus, Kaliningrad, Donbass

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces announced that the U.S. will participate in a joint exercise with the military of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine in the last country from July 17-30. It will be the first time such joint exercises will be held in Ukraine.

The war games are code-named Three Swords 2021 and will be hosted by the International Peacekeeping and Security Center of the Hetman Petro Sahaidachnyi National Ground Forces Academy.

According to UKRINFORM the event will be “a multinational military exercise of the Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian Brigade named after Grand Hetman Konstanty Ostrogski,” though it’s difficult to determine where the eponymous nature of the title comes in.

The reference to the Grand Hetman of Lithuania (1460-1530) is a further indication of where the three nations involved have progressed (if that’s the word) since the end of the Cold War.

The exercise will have both command and field components and will include over 1,200 troops and more than 200 combat vehicles. It will be the first time Ukraine hosts a Three Swords exercise. The drills are designed to create “favorable conditions for the development and effective coordination of units of partner countries in order to improve the quality and increase the level of combat capabilities….”

The Ukrainian General Staff press release on the impending event describes it as a “completely new format of international military exercises” to strengthen international military cooperation for deployment of the Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian Brigade (LitPolUkrBrig), the joint military component of the Lublin Triangle.

The latter is a joint Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian cooperation format intended in large part to prepare Ukraine for NATO and EU membership. The name is derived form the 1569 Union of Lublin.

The Lublin Triangle initiative evokes the legacy of the 1569 Union of Lublin that gave rise to the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The message to Belarus and Russia could not be more clear.

The Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian Brigade was formed in 2015 and has its headquarters in Lublin, Poland. It offer its services to NATO, the European Union and the United Nations.

This year’s iteration will occur against worsening crises in Ukraine and in Belarus. Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine all border Belarus, as does NATO member Latvia. The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad is bordered on the land side exclusively by Lithuania and Poland.

The LitPolUkrBrig training this year with forces deployed by the Pentagon would be just the unit to intervene in Belarus, Kaliningrad or Ukraine’s Donbass region if NATO so willed it.

The exercise was announced as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confidently asserted that Russia will be expelled from Crimea and its Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol. Speaking to an All-Ukrainian Forum today, he pulled no punches:

“The de-occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol remains among highest foreign policy priorities. The transformation of Crimea into a military base on the Black Sea [by Russia] completely destroys the security architecture in the region. Countering this requires active consolidation of the efforts of the international community.”

The priority purpose of the quadrilateral war games to be held in Ukraine later this month may well be “liberating occupied territories” in the former Soviet Union.