NATO is set to carry out its largest military exercise since the Cold War next year, according to Admiral Rob Bauer, the chair of the US-led bloc’s Military Committee. The exercise, named Steadfast Defender, will involve more than 40,000 troops and will take place in Germany, Poland, and the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. These countries share borders with Russia, and the exercise is intended to enhance the bloc’s collective defense capabilities against potential threats.
The Financial Times reported that the Steadfast Defender drills will also involve more than 50 ships and between 500 and 700 combat air missions. The exercise is designed to simulate a clash with a fictional coalition called ‘Occasus.’ It is scheduled to take place in February 2024.
This upcoming exercise comes on the heels of another large-scale NATO military drill conducted in June. Dubbed Air Defender 23, it involved 10,000 troops from 25 nations and 250 aircraft. The exercise was the largest deployment of air forces in NATO’s history and was based on a NATO Article 5 assistance scenario.
Admiral Bauer emphasized that NATO is entering a “new era of collective defense” that it has been preparing for over the years. He criticized NATO members for their purported lack of commitment to building a solid security foundation. He pointed out that production capacities within the bloc were lagging behind, leading to delays in weapons deliveries and rising prices on equipment and ammunition. He attributed these challenges to the complexities of liberal economies in creating the necessary prioritization.
Furthermore, Admiral Bauer reiterated NATO’s commitment to supplying arms to Ukraine in its ongoing conflict with Russia. General Eirik Kristoffersen, the Norwegian Chief of Defense who hosted the NATO defense chiefs’ summit, stated that the Ukrainian forces were fighting on behalf of a functioning rules-based world order. He accused Russia of challenging this order for years.
Russia has expressed concerns about NATO’s military build-up, viewing it as a threat and warning that it will lead to increased tensions in the region. Moscow has also cautioned against NATO’s expansion closer to its borders. President Vladimir Putin has cited NATO activities as a major reason behind the conflict in Ukraine.
The upcoming Steadfast Defender exercise demonstrates NATO’s commitment to collective defense and its efforts to enhance its readiness and capabilities. As tensions persist between NATO and Russia, the exercise serves as a show of strength and a way to ensure the security and stability of NATO member states. However, it is important for all parties involved to engage in open dialogue and diplomacy to prevent further escalation and maintain peace in the region.