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NATO to hold largest drills since Cold War with 90,000 troops

NATO flag.
NATO flag. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

NATO's biggest exercise in decades, involving 90,000 troops, will start next week and test the allies' capabilities in a possible future conflict with an adversary, such as Russia. Some drills will take place in the Baltics.

The Steadfast Defender exercise will rehearse how U.S. troops could reinforce European allies in countries bordering Russia and on the alliance's eastern flank if a conflict were to flare up with a "near-peer" adversary, news agency Reuters reported on Thursday.

Drills will take place in Poland, the Baltic states, Germany, Norway, and Romania and run until May.

More than 50 ships, over 80 fighter jets, helicopters, and drones, and at least 1,100 combat vehicles will take part, NATO said.

The alliance's top commander Gen. Christopher Cavoli said on Thursday said the drills will rehearse NATO's execution of its regional plans. These are the first defense plans the alliance has drawn up in decades, detailing how it would respond to a Russian attack.

The troops taking part in the exercises, which will involve simulations of getting personnel to Europe as well as exercises on the ground, will come from NATO countries and Sweden.

NATO Military Committee Chairman Admiral Rob Bauer said the scale of the exercise demonstrates the alliance's new readiness.

Bauer also warned alliance member states' societies must better prepare for a possible future war.

"We have to understand that it's not for granted that we live in peace and that's why we have plans, that's why we're preparing for conflict," he said. "We are not looking for conflict, but if they attack us, we have to be ready."

The last NATO exercises of a similar size were Reforger – during the Cold War in 1988 with 125,000 participants – and Trident Juncture in 2018 with 50,000 participants, according to NATO.

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Editor: Helen Wright, Merili Nael

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