NATO's Largest Exercise Since the Cold War Set to Counter Russian Threats

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is gearing up for its most significant show of strength since the Cold War.

by Faruk Imamovic
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NATO's Largest Exercise Since the Cold War Set to Counter Russian Threats
© Getty Images News/Sean Gallup

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is gearing up for its most significant show of strength since the Cold War. According to the Financial Times, NATO is orchestrating the Steadfast Defender exercise set to commence next spring.

It's expected to comprise a staggering 41,000 troops, engaging in between 500 to 700 air combat missions, and mobilizing more than 50 ships. At the heart of this effort is a mission to practice defense strategies against potential Russian aggression towards any of its member states.

This monumental move comes in the wake of Ukraine's invasion, acting as a catalyst for NATO's swift transformation into a full-fledged war alliance. The exercise is meticulously designed to simulate potential operations against an adversary resembling the Russian-led coalition, which for this operation has been given the pseudonym "Occasus."

An Expanding Alliance and Evolving Strategies

Sweden, which is still in the process of finalizing its NATO membership, is set to participate in the exercise, raising the tally of countries involved to 32.

The exercise will sprawl across Germany, Poland, and the Baltics throughout February and March. It is a manifestation of NATO's revamped training strategy, which now encompasses two major exercises annually, up from the previous single major exercise.

NATO's purview isn’t solely focused on the immediate threat from Russia. They also aim to tackle terrorist threats beyond their borders. In a statement last June, Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary General, disclosed plans to escalate the alliance's high readiness forces from 40,000 to a mammoth "over 300,000." This shift indicates a pivot from deploying light, mobile forces, as witnessed in the Balkans and Afghanistan, to emphasizing heavier military capabilities.

NATO's bolstered defensive posture has received significant backing from Baltic nations, notably as tensions escalate at the Belarusian border. Following Russia's president, Vladimir Putin's alarming declaration in July about the potential deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus – a claim yet to be substantiated – the call for NATO's reinforcement of its eastern wing has gained urgency.

Concrete steps have been made towards this initiative. For instance, in June, Germany confirmed its commitment to maintain a 4,000-strong troop presence in Lithuania permanently. Such measures, coupled with the upcoming Steadfast Defender exercise, serve as a powerful message to Moscow: NATO stands united and prepared to counter any aggression.

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