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19 Jan, 2024 03:52

NATO announces largest war games 'for decades'

The drills will involve dozens of warships and more than 1,000 combat vehicles
NATO announces largest war games 'for decades'

NATO is set to hold its largest round of war games in decades, with some 90,000 troops from all 31 member states – as well as Sweden – planning to participate. The drills will run for several months, and see training operations held across Europe.

Dubbed “Steadfast Defender 2024,” the exercise will kick off next week and continue into May, the US-led military bloc's Supreme Allied Commander for Europe Christopher Cavoli announced at a Thursday press briefing.

“Exercise Steadfast Defender 2024 will be the largest NATO exercise in decades, with participation from approximately 90,000 forces from all 31 Allies and our good partner Sweden,” Cavoli said, adding that the drills would simulate an “emerging conflict scenario against a near-peer adversary.”

At least 1,100 combat vehicles are also set to take part in the war games – including 133 tanks and 533 infantry fighting vehicles – in addition to more than 50 naval vessels from aircraft carriers to destroyers. Around 80 helicopters, drones and fighter jets will join them.

Cavoli went on to say that the training operations would show NATO’s ability to “reinforce the Euro-Atlantic area via trans-Atlantic movement of forces from North America,” suggesting the drills would rehearse a major US deployment to the continent.

In a separate announcement, the bloc said the drill would demonstrate NATO’s ability to “conduct and sustain complex multi-domain operations over several months, across thousands of kilometers, from the High North to Central and Eastern Europe, and in any condition.”

Earlier this week, UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said London would contribute 20,000 military personnel to Steadfast Defender, including troops with the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force. British fighter jets, warships and submarines will also take part.

The last war games to rival the size of the upcoming exercise came in 1988, at the height of the Cold War, when 125,000 Western troops gathered for the US-led “Reforger” drill. The annual operation was meant to simulate a large deployment of forces to West Germany in the event of conflict with the Soviet Union, but was halted in 1993 following the collapse of the USSR.

Last week German media claimed that Berlin was bracing for hostilities with Russia, which it projected could arise as early as summer 2025.

Moscow has for decades voiced concerns about NATO’s expansion towards its borders, viewing it as an existential threat. President Vladimir Putin earlier cited Ukraine’s desire to join the bloc as one of the key reasons for the current conflict.