NATO to stage largest war games since Cold War – FT

NATO is poised to hold its largest military exercises since the Cold War era in Western Europe early next year, the Financial Times reported on Monday. The drills will simulate the bloc’s response to a hypothetical Russian invasion and are intended to increase readiness for such a scenario, according to the outlet.

Bearing the name Steadfast Defender, the exercises will involve around 41,000 troops, more than 50 ships, and between 500 and 700 combat air missions, according to the report. While the exercises are designed to simulate a clash with a fictional coalition named ‘Occasus,’ NATO officials told the FT that the maneuvers are seen as a key part of demonstrating to Moscow that the alliance is prepared to fight.” 

The exercises will reportedly take place in Germany, Poland, and the Baltic states, which border Russia, in February and March 2024. NATO-applicant Sweden will also be involved, the report said. The Nordic nation applied to join the bloc last year, but its application is still in limbo due to the reluctance of Türkiye and Hungary to ratify its bid, owing to a number of grievances in bilateral relations.

The FT also reported that NATO intends to hold two major war games a year instead of one. The exercise will also reportedly focus on counterterrorism efforts outside of the bloc’s borders.

In June 2022, in light of the Ukraine conflict, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the bloc would deploy 300,000 troops, describing the development as the “biggest overhaul of our collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War.” 

Meanwhile, Russian officials have repeatedly said that they perceive NATO’s military build-up as a threat, warning that such moves will lead to increased tensions in the region, thus warranting additional security measures from Moscow. Russia has also repeatedly warned the bloc against further expansion closer to Russia’s borders. President Vladimir Putin has said that one of main reasons behind the Ukraine conflict was the risk that Kiev would join the alliance.

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