The Pentagon has announced it is conducting joint exercises with Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia with a contingent of approximately 600 US soldiers. The exercises are bilateral with each country involved and are occurring outside NATO in a revolving fashion. The move comes after a peace accord in Geneva appears to have broken down with fighting breaking out in East Ukraine over Easter.

There is no announced end to the deployment.

About 150 soldiers from the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), based in Italy, are heading to each of four countries — Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — in rotational deployments that the Pentagon says will be sustained until further notice.

The paratroopers will take weapons and ammunition for “infantry exercises” and be in place by the end of the week, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon. The roughly company-sized units will remain in place for about a month, and then new ones will follow them until at least the end of the year.

Given the relatively small amount of soldiers it seems mostly like a chin check from the US on Russia. If the war actually got hot its unlikely a force that small could change the dynamics on the ground with tens of thousands of Russian forces right near the Ukrainian border.

But it is still an escalation in a crisis where no one has a clear road out. Russia appears not to want to annex more territory at the moment as the government in Kiev struggles to gain assistance from the West. With all events transpiring in the shadow of oncoming national elections at the end of May.