More than 40,000 troops will take part in the drills next year, the head of the NATO Military Committee says
NATO will stage a massive military exercise in 2024 involving over 40,000 troops - the biggest since the Cold War - the US-led bloc's Military Committee chair, Admiral Rob Bauer, said on Saturday.
The 'collective defense' exercise - Steadfast Defender - will take place in Germany, Poland, and the three Baltic States that border Russia - Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania - Bauer said. The US-led bloc needs to do "much more" to protect itself against "current threats, but also against reconstituted threats and potential future threats," the admiral claimed.
Earlier this week, the Financial Times reported that the drills would involve more than 50 ships and from 500 to 700 combat air missions. The exercise is designed to simulate a clash with a fictional coalition named 'Occasus', it said, citing the bloc's officials. According to the paper, the drills are scheduled for February 2024.
In June, the bloc held an exercise that the German Armed Forces, which led the drills, called the "largest deployment... of air forces in NATO's history" - Air Defender 23. The exercise involved 10,000 troops from 25 nations, as well as 250 aircraft, and was modeled around a NATO Article 5 assistance scenario.
On Saturday, Bauer said the bloc is about to enter a "new era of collective defense." He also blasted what he called a lack of commitment to a solid security foundation by NATO member states.
Production capacities across the US-led bloc have been "lagging behind," weapons deliveries are being delayed, and prices for equipment and ammunition are "shooting up," he said, citing other NATO defense chiefs. He claimed that "liberal economies" are "not apt at creating the prioritization that is so desperately needed right now."
"Long-term stability needs to prevail over short-term profits," Bauer stated, adding that "prevention of war through... deterrence" should be a "whole-of-society event."
The admiral once again reaffirmed NATO's commitment to supplying Kiev with arms in its conflict with Russia. The Norwegian defense chief, General Eirik Kristoffersen, who hosted a summit of NATO defense chiefs in Oslo that was attended by Bauer, also stated that the Ukrainian forces are "fighting a battle on all our behalf for a functioning rules-based world order." The Norwegian general accused Russia of "challenging" this order.
Russia has repeatedly stated that it perceives NATO's military buildup as a threat, warning that it will lead to increased tensions in the region, thus warranting additional security measures from Moscow. It has also repeatedly warned the bloc against further expansion east towards Russia's borders. President Vladimir Putin cited this as one of the main reasons behind the military operation in Ukraine.