NATO announces largest military exercise since Cold War

(CNN)- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced this Thursday the military alliance’s largest exercise since the Cold War, which will involve approximately 90,000 troops in training operations in the United States, Europe and the Atlantic Ocean.

According to a NATO statement, the Steadfast Defender 24 exercise will simulate an emerging conflict and demonstrate that NATO can conduct operations “over thousands of kilometres, from the High North to Central and Eastern Europe and in any conditions”.

All 31 NATO members and Sweden will participate in the exercise.

The military alliance said more than 80 aircraft, including F35s, FA18s, Harriers, F15s, helicopters and drones, more than 50 naval assets and more than 1,100 combat vehicles will take part in NATO’s largest exercise since 1988.

“NATO exercises have been defensive, transparent, proportionate and conducted in full respect of our international obligations,” the alliance said in a statement Thursday.

The maneuvers will take place amid rising tensions and conflicts in the world, particularly in Ukraine, which is waging a war with Russia following a February 22, 2022 invasion, and in Gaza, where Israel and Hamas have been locked in war since October. 7, which is spreading rapidly throughout the Middle East.

What is NATO?

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, its full name, is a non-aggressive European and North American defense alliance created to promote peace and stability and protect the security of its members.

The organization, which is based in Brussels, Belgium, was created as the Cold War intensified. Its purpose was to protect the countries of Western Europe from the threat posed by the Soviet Union and to counter the spread of communism after World War II.

Arctic thaw threatens Russia, China

U.S. Marines participate in a NATO military exercise called “Cold Response 2022” in Norway, March 24, 2022. (Credit: Yves Herman/Reuters)

In April 1949, its 12 founders—the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and eight other European countries—signed the North Atlantic Treaty, pledging to protect each other through political and military means.

Since then, the coalition has grown: today it has 31 members. In alphabetical order, they are: Albania, Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, United States, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Romania and Turkey.

Flags raised in front of NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on 4 April.  (Photo: Johanna Geron/Pool/Reuters/File)

Flags raised in front of NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on 4 April. (Credit: Johanna Geron/Pool/Reuters/File)

Since the end of the Cold War, more than a dozen former Eastern Bloc countries have joined the alliance, including three former Soviet republics. Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia continues to view NATO as a threat. Amid recent tensions with the West, Russia sought concrete assurances that there would be no further expansion of the alliance, which NATO members have opposed.

However, since May 2022, the announcement of support for NATO by the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, and the Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, has led to greater tensions between NATO and Russia.

In April 2023, Finland’s entry into the alliance was made official, while Sweden’s accession was approved in July of the same year after Turkey lifted its blockade over that decision.

With reporting by Ivana Kotsova, Bryony Jones

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