NATO will use 90,000 troops for its largest drills since the Cold War

In preparation for a potential battle with a “near-peer” foe, NATO is conducting its biggest exercise since the end of the Cold War. The exercise will test how American forces may support European partners in nations bordering Russia and on the alliance’s eastern flank.

According to the alliance’s chief commander Chris Cavoli, about 90,000 troops are scheduled to participate in the Steadfast Defender 2024 drills, which will take place through May.

According to NATO, there will be at least 1,100 combat vehicles, including 133 tanks and 533 infantry fighting vehicles, along with more than 80 fighter jets, helicopters, and drones and more than 50 ships, ranging from destroyers to aircraft carriers.

The exercises, according to Cavoli, will practice how NATO would carry out its regional plans—the first defence plans the alliance has created in decades that outline how it would react to a Russian attack.

Russia was not specifically mentioned by NATO in its statement. However, its most important strategic document names Russia as the biggest direct threat to the security of NATO countries.

“Steadfast Defender 2024 will demonstrate NATO’s ability to rapidly deploy forces from North America and other parts of the alliance to reinforce the defence of Europe,” said NATO.

Cavoli informed reporters in Brussels that the reinforcement would take place during a “simulated emerging conflict scenario with a near-peer adversary” following a two-day gathering of national chiefs of defence.

According to NATO, the last exercises of a comparable scale were Reforger, which involved 125,000 people during the Cold War in 1988, and Trident Juncture, which had 50,000 participants in 2018.

The exercises will include both on-the-ground training and simulations of moving forces to Europe. The participating troops will be drawn from NATO member states as well as Sweden, which intends to join the alliance in the near future.

After a protracted period during which NATO felt assured that post-Soviet Russia no longer constituted an existential threat and that Western countries were fighting smaller conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Allies approved the regional plans at their summit in Vilnius in 2023.
NATO’s quick reaction force to Poland on the alliance’s eastern flank will be the subject of particular attention during the second phase of the Steadfast Defender exercise.

The Baltic states, which are thought to be most vulnerable to a possible Russian attack, Germany, a hub for incoming reinforcements, and nations on the periphery of the alliance, including Norway and Romania, will also be important sites for the drills.

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