NATO announced this Wednesday the formal start of its largest military maneuvers in decadesnicknamed “Steadfast Defender 24”, with the departure of the American military ship “USS Gunston Hall” from Norfolk, Virginia.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) reported in a statement that “after a series of operations, the ship will begin its transit across the Atlantic.”
“The departure of the ‘USS Gunston Hall’ marks the first tactical movement” of the maneuvers, which will last until May and in which some 90,000 soldiers from the transatlantic defense alliance will participate.
The exercises “will demonstrate that NATO can conduct and sustain complex multi-domain operations over several months, over thousands of kilometers (miles), from the High North to Central and Eastern Europe, and under any conditions,” the organization explained. from 31 nations.
The exercise is designed to simulate the response of the 31-nation alliance to an attack from a rival such as Russia. In the months before President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine in February 2022, NATO began beefing up security on its eastern flank in its biggest buildup since the Cold War.
The maneuvers will include localized parallel exercises and will stretch from North America to NATO’s eastern flanknear the Russian border.
Some 50 warships, 80 aircraft and more than 1,100 combat vehicles will participate.
These are NATO’s largest maneuvers since the Reforger exercise of 1988in the aftermath of the Cold War and occur in a context of rising international tensions since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The American general Christopher Cavolihead of the NATO Command for Europe, indicated that the 31 countries of the Alliance will participate, as well as Sweden, which aspires to join it.
“It will be a clear demonstration of our unity, our strength and our determination to protect each other,” said the soldier.
The Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Robert Bauersaid that this is “a record number of troops that we can mobilize and conduct an exercise of that size, across the alliance, across the ocean, from the United States to Europe.”
Bauer described it as “a big change” compared to the number of troops exercising just a year ago.
Days ago, the admiral urged members of the Atlantic alliance to “expect the unexpected.” As the war stalls and with U.S. and European Union funding for Ukraine’s conflict-ravaged economy held back by political infighting, Bauer called for a “whole-of-society approach” to the challenge that goes beyond of military planning.
“We need public and private actors to change their mindset from an era in which everything was plannable, predictable, controllable and focused on efficiency to an era in which anything can happen at any time. An era in which we must expect the unexpected,” he stated as he opened the meeting.
For his part, the Secretary of Defense of the United Kingdom, Grant Shappsannounced that the government in London will send 20,000 troops backed by advanced fighter jets, surveillance planes, warships and submarines, many of whom will be deployed to Eastern Europe from February to June.
For its part, the Bulgarian Government announced days ago that it will build roads, railway lines and oil pipelines worth 6 billion euros that, in addition to their civil use, can be used for the rapid deployment of NATO troops, thus fulfilling the plans. defense of the Alliance.
“The deployment of a multinational combat group in our territory has been discussed dozens or hundreds of times,” said the Minister of Defense, Todor Tagarev.
(With information from AFP and AP)