More than 40,000 troops are to take part in the drills scheduled for next year, the head of the NATO Military Committee says
NATO plans to stage a massive military exercise in 2024, the US-led bloc's Military Committee Chair, Admiral Rob Bauer, said on Saturday. The drills expected to involve over 40,000 troops are to become the biggest ones since the Cold War, he added.
The "collective defense" exercise dubbed Steadfast Defender is to take place in Germany, Poland and the three Baltic States - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - which border Russia, Bauer said. The US-led bloc needs to do "much more" to supposedly protect itself against "current threats, but also against reconstituted threats and potential future threats," the admiral maintained.
Earlier this week, the Financial Times reported that the Steadfast Defense drills would 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 named 'Occasus,' it said, citing the bloc's officials. According to the paper, the drills were scheduled for February 2024.
In June, the bloc already held an exercise that the German Armed Forces, which led the drills, called the "largest deployment... of air forces in NATO's history." Dubbed 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 that the bloc is about to enter a "new era of collective defense" it has been supposedly preparing for over the "years." The admiral still blasted the NATO members' alleged lack of commitment to what he called a solid security foundation.
Production capacities across the US-led bloc were "lagging behind," weapons deliveries were being delayed, and prices on equipment and ammunition were "shooting up," he said, citing other NATO defense chiefs and claiming that "liberal economies" were "not apt at creating the prioritization that is so desperately needed right now."
"Long-term stability needs to prevail over short-term profits," Bauer maintained, adding that "prevention of war through ... deterrence" should be a "whole-of-society event."
The admiral also once again reaffirmed NATO's commitment to supplying Kiev with arms in its ongoing conflict with Russia. The Norwegian Chief of Defense, General Eirik Kristoffersen, who hosted the summit of the NATO defense chiefs in Oslo attended by Bauer, also openly stated that the Ukrainian forces were "fighting a battle on all our behalf for a functioning rules-based world order." The Norwegian general then accused Russia of "challenging" this order "for years."
Russia has repeatedly stated that it perceives NATO's military buildup as a threat, warning that such moves 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 to the east, closer to Russia's borders. President Vladimir Putin named such NATO activities as one of the major reasons behind the conflict in Ukraine.