Major NATO wargames begin in Eastern Europe
Poland is participating in two large-scale multinational drills and is the host nation for one of them, the country’s Defense Ministry revealed on Sunday amid Russian allegations that Warsaw is preparing to occupy the western part of Ukraine.
The Defender Europe 2022 (DE22) and Swift Response 2022 (SR22) will be conducted in nine countries including Poland between May 1-27, the Polish ministry said.
“There will be approximately 18,000 participants from over 20 countries training together in both exercises. The portion of the exercises on Polish soil will see some 7,000 troops and 3,000 pieces of equipment,” the statement reads.
Defender Europe is a regularly conducted American-led multinational exercise that aims poised to “build preparedness and interoperability between Allies and partners” of NATO and America. DE22 training will be conducted at several sites in Poland, with Polish soldiers to be joined by personnel from the US, France, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, and UK.
The Swift Response exercise will entail approximately 550 Polish soldiers being deployed to Lithuania and Latvia along with troops from the Czech Republic and a German-Dutch force.
“Joint combined exercises such as these enhance the security of the NATO Eastern Flank through a training in accordance with NATO standards and procedures,” the Defense Ministry emphasized.
It added that the drills also contribute to the bloc's preparedness “to meet new and emerging challenges at the contemporary battlefield in order to deter a potential aggressor.”
The military specifically pointed out that DE22 and SR 22 “are not aimed against any country and are not related to the current geopolitical situation in the region,” in a veiled reference to the ongoing Russian military offensive in Ukraine.
These assurances come as Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Director Sergey Naryshkin accused Warsaw of preparing to occupy the western part of Ukraine, which Poland considers as “historically belonging” to it. The potential “reunification” of Poland with western Ukraine will come under the guise of deploying a “peacekeeping” mission into the country under the pretext of protecting Kiev from “Russian aggression,” the official alleged. Warsaw denied the claims.
For years, Russia has expressed concern over NATO’s expansion eastwards, which it considers a direct threat to its own security. This factor along with the possibility of Ukraine eventually joining the alliance were named by Moscow as the key reasons for launch of its military offensive.