The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is putting on its largest military exercise since the Cold War this week in a display of military preparedness and readiness.
NATO is utilizing a ground force of more than 50,000 troops and 10,000 vehicles in addition to 350 aircraft and 65 ships across regions in Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
Dubbed Trident Juncture, ABC News reports the exercise is already underway and started when hundreds of soldiers simulated a beach landing. Dozens of warships and helicopters joined alongside the troops as the forces were tasked with preventing a simulated invasion of an army.
From the report:
On Tuesday, hundreds of soldiers launched a simulated beach landing at a location close to the city of Trondheim on Norway’s west coast, supported by dozens of warplanes and helicopters. Watched by international dignitaries from a grandstand, a fleet of a dozen warships sailed in a column down a fjord framed by snow-dusted mountains, while landing craft vessels headed towards shore. Marines from different NATO-member countries leaped onto a rocky beach, hurrying past pointed-roofed Norwegian houses and moving up a grassy slope as F16s and other jets flew overhead.
The spectacle of force is the largest put on by NATO since the end of the Cold War, NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters at the display on Tuesday. The last comparable exercise in this part of the world, which saw 14,000 troops deploy to Norway, was in 2002.
The exercise was to practice a NATO response to an attack on one of its member countries, which would trigger Article 5 of the alliance’s charter that guarantees collective defense. All 29 NATO countries have contributed forces to the drills, as well Finland and Sweden, which are not members. Seven thousand U.S. Marines, as well as army, navy and air force personnel are taking part too.
NATO said the exercise was “not directed at any country” and stressed that the attacker in the situation was fictitious, but the alliance was formed to combat Russian efforts to expand into Eastern Europe and the exercise follows similarly large exercises launched by Russia.
From ABC News:
Trident Juncture is part of a broader NATO effort to beef up its deterrence capabilities against Russia following Moscow’s invasion of Crimea four years ago and growing tensions. It is also partly responds to Russia’s own huge military exercises, which the country has held with increasing frequency as tensions with Western countries have grown. The present exercises are intended to demonstrate NATO’s capability to deploy large forces rapidly over long distances. Although NATO officials won’t acknowledge it publicly, it in part addresses a nightmare scenario for NATO planners in which the alliance is caught flat-footed by a sudden Russian incursion into the Baltic States or Scandinavia.
Russia has made clear it considers the present war games to be directed at it, and Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said the drills have an “anti-Russian orientation.” This week Russia announced it will hold its own missile test drills in international waters off Norway’s coast close to where the NATO exercises are happening.