In Depth

Nato stages largest military exercise since the Cold War

More than 50,000 troops are practising air, sea, land and cybersecurity war manoeuvres in Norway

Nato has gathered together 50,000 military personnel from 31 countries for its largest military exercise since the Cold War, just weeks after Russia and China staged massive joint war games.

Exercise Trident Juncture 18 stretches from the Baltic Sea into Iceland, and will see troops practising air, sea, land and cybersecurity war manoeuvres until 7 November.

Hosted in Norway, the exercise is designed to ensure “that Nato forces are trained, able to operate together, and ready to respond to any threat from any direction”, according to the alliance’s website. The exercise will involve a total of 65 ships, 250 aircraft and 10,000 vehicles, and the participants will take turns playing the role of fictitious aggressor and Nato defending forces.

The exercises will be conducted at training grounds across central Norway in below-freezing temperatures.

“We’ll operate here for the next couple of weeks in what is an unforgiving environment at sea and on land,” head commander Admiral James G. Foggo told Reuters. Foggo is overseeing the operation from USS Mount Whitney, a Blue Ridge-class command ship of the US Navy.

Although Nato sponsors annual military exercises, Trident Juncture 18 far exceeds previous campaigns.  “In recent years, Europe’s security environment has significantly deteriorated,” Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference earlier this week. “Nato has responded, with the biggest adaptation of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.”

In the past, the organisation’s military exercises have usually taken place in Central and Eastern Europe, reports The Washington Post.

This year’s geographical shift follows a request from Norway to double the number of US Marines training in the country each year, a move that has been viewed as a response to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea

The Nato military exercise comes a month after Russia held its biggest war games since the fall of the Soviet Union. Conducted in conjunction with China, Vostok-2018 involved almost 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 military aircraft, two of Russia’s naval fleets, and all of its airborne units, according to a statement by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Nato spokesperson Dylan White told Reuters that Russia had briefed the alliance on the campaign in May.

“Vostok demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict. It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time - a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defence budget and its military presence,” White said.

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