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cture this: a powerful enemy army has invaded Europe. One strong enough to go punch for punch with NATO forces. A terrifying, if unlikely scenario but for the US Army's Fourth Infantry Division, the preparations are all too real. I'm Reuters Matt Laratonda in rural Zagan Poland, where behind me American troops and their Polish counterparts are participating in live fire exercises, preparing for a potential conflict that many thought died with the end of the Cold War.
It's all part of a massive buildup of NATO forces in Central and Eastern Europe, started after Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine three years ago. By Spring it's expected some 4,000 troops from Britain, Canada, Germany, and the States in addition to local forces like Poland will be stationed in the region.
What NATO calls a 40,000 strong rapid reaction force will be strewn throughout the rest of the continent. For Major Mike Harrison, it's a stark contrast to years spent fighting insurgencies in the Middle East.>> It is a bit surreal. Three, four years ago I was up in the mountains of Afghanistan and heated.
Now I'm in Eastern Europe, can have a kebab, and we're working with host nation partners. Who have many of the same ideals and goals that we have. So we really are looking forward to getting down to Rumania, Bulgaria. Invest in those relations.>> It's a massive force. But NATO says it's a poultry figure compared to the 330,000 Russian forces stationed west of Moscow, including in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on Poland's northern border.
But the troops I met weren't fazed.>> Yes,
] fears of the unknown, but we're gonna do what we came here to do.>> Some of the equipment deployed here has never been used in battle. Preparing now for a conflict that Europe hopes will never come.