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15 Jan, 2024 15:29

UK to send 20,000 troops to NATO war games

The British military will send a large contingent to one of the bloc’s biggest drills since the end of the Cold War
UK to send 20,000 troops to NATO war games

The UK is set to deploy around 20,000 service members – as well as modern warships and fighter jets – to take part in major NATO war games amid rising tensions with Russia, the Defence Ministry in London has announced.

In a statement on Monday, the ministry, citing excerpts from a speech to be delivered by Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, said that some 16,000 army troops – along with tanks, artillery, and helicopters – will join other bloc members on the continent to participate in Exercise Steadfast Defender 24, scheduled to take place in the first half of this year.

The effort will be supported by eight warships and submarines, as well as 2,000 Royal Navy sailors. The UK will also deploy a number of aircraft, including F35B Lightning fighters and Poseidon P8 surveillance aircraft, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, Shapps is expected to call the drill “one of NATO’s largest deployments since the end of the Cold War,” adding that the UK and its allies have found themselves “in a new era” and “must be prepared to deter our enemies,” according to the statement. The statement specifically referred to the threat from the Russian “menace.”

NATO began reinforcing its military footprint in Europe first after a Western-backed coup in Kiev triggered hostilities in Donbass, which is now part of Russia. However, the most drastic build-up occurred after Russia launched its military campaign against Ukraine in February 2022. In June of the same year, the US-led military bloc agreed to put 300,000 troops on high alert, up from 40,000, to deter Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously said that Moscow has no plans to attack NATO, arguing that there was “no geopolitical, economic … or military interest” in waging war against the bloc. Still, Moscow has also repeatedly warned that the alliance’s military activities close to its border warrant additional security measures. Putin has also said that Ukraine’s desire to join NATO was one of the key reasons for the current conflict.