Reigniting Cold War Flames: NATO's Steadfast Defender 2024 Exercises
© SputnikNATO Steadfast Defender Exercise 2024
NATO launched its largest military exercises since the Cold War on Wednesday, with a US warship setting sail from the United States to Europe. Russian authorities have previously warned that NATO officials "provoke a game of nerves and further compress the spring of escalation."
Steadfast Defender 2024 are months-long exercises involving 90,000 military personnel from 31 member countries of the NATO alliance and Sweden.
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko expressed concerns, stating that the scale of these exercises marks NATO's return to Cold War-era confrontational strategies against Russia.
"An exercise of this scale marks the final and irrevocable return of NATO to the Cold War schemes," he told Sputnik earlier this week.
According to Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, NATO's Steadfast Defender drills near Russia's borders increase the risk of military incidents and may lead to tragic consequences.
"Against the backdrop of Russia's constant calls for de-escalation, the plans of the North Atlantic bloc to conduct the largest coalition exercises since the Cold War, Steadfast Defender 2024, raise questions," Zakharova stated on Friday.
The maneuvers are overtly provocative: for several months, a 90,000-strong force from 31 NATO countries and Sweden will actively operate near Russian borders, stretching from Norway to Romania.
“This move is deliberately aimed at escalating the situation, raising the risks of military incidents, and ultimately may lead to tragic consequences for Europe,” she added.
The official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry noted that NATO "does not hide the fact that during the exercises, they will be practicing tasks related to countering the 'Russian threat'."
"The chairman of NATO's military committee, Admiral Rob Bauer, has stated that the alliance is preparing for a conflict with Russia. Similar comments have repeatedly come from the leadership of NATO member countries. Thus, the alliance is attempting to justify both its existence and its policy of containing Russia, as well as to justify the insane growth in military expenditures," Zakharova added.
"On our part, we have repeatedly stated and reaffirm that there are no plans to attack NATO countries," she said.
27 January, 03:31 GMT
The simulation, spanning from North America to NATO's eastern flank near the Russian border, involves 50 naval vessels, 80 aircraft, and over 1,100 combat vehicles. This marks NATO's most significant exercises since the 1988 Reforger drill during the Cold War and follows the alliance's defense overhaul.