NATO Military Exercises And Russia’s Response

On January 24, 2024, NATO started a military exercise in Europe (Steadfast Defender 2024), which is said to be NATO’s largest exercise in decades. Official information posted on NATO’s website clues on about “associated exercises running until May 31, 2024. It will be the first large scale NATO exercise where new defense plans will be put into action. It will show that NATO can conduct and sustain complex multi-domain operations over several months, across thousands of kilometers, from the Far North to Central and Eastern Europe, and in any conditions.”

The central question is who NATO is going to defend against. Since Russia’s officials have repeatedly said that they are not going to threaten NATO countries, in recent years the Alliance has got panic and, with the help of social engineering and media manipulation, has inspired some ordinary people that as soon as Moscow wins in Ukraine it will definitely start a war against other countries, meaning the Baltic states, which were once part of the USSR, and Finland, in the first place.

Therefore, these exercises actually represent a joint defensive operation in response to a hypothetical Russian attack on a NATO member.

They will last as long as four months and will unfold across Europe from Norway to Romania to involve 31 NATO members and Sweden will take part in the exercises, 50 ships of various purposes, 80 aircraft, more than 1,100 armored vehicles and about 90,000 personnel, including 20,000 British, 15,000 Polish, 10,000 German and 5,000 Dutch army men. These numbers are approximate and, judging from other routine NATO interactions and the ongoing Operation Atlantic Resolve, the actual scale may be even larger.

Russia has already responded to the start of the maneuvers. Maria Zakharova, Spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, noted that “NATO’s exercise Steadfast Defender 2024 is openly provocative in nature… This step is deliberately aimed at aggravating the situation; it increases the risk of military incidents and ultimately can lead to tragic consequences for Europe”.

In fact the exercise scenario is not defensive, but offensive and this is also a provocative act. NATO is said to test the option of quickly seizing and holding a “cordon sanitaire from Vilnius to Odessa”, but, what is very important, they are going to practice nuclear strikes against the Leningrad, Arkhangelsk, Murmansk, Smolensk and Pskov Regions of Russia, while submarines and anti-submarine boats taking part in the exercise are simulate the destruction of Russian submarines in the Barents and Baltic seas.

Interestingly, with Sweden’s accession to NATO (Turkey has just ratified Sweden’s application), the Baltic Sea effectively turns into a body of water under NATO control. The region will be militarized, and the Swedish defense industry will serve against Russia, with additional bases to be most likely created on the island of Gotland, thus, increasing the threat to the Kaliningrad Region and St. Petersburg. Moreover, the current NATO exercise will involve simulating a capture of the Kaliningrad Region. Actually, the United States tried to carry out similar scenarios of a military conflict around the Kaliningrad Region and the results turned out to be disappointing for NATO as they should significantly increase their air power, which was inadequate at the time of analysis, in order to suppress Russia’s air defense systems. The current NATO exercise is likely to take into account previous developments and changes that have occurred since the beginning of the special military operation.

According to Russian intelligence, the United States will have its own interests in this exercise, in particular, simulating preventive strikes on the permanent silo bases of Russian strategic nuclear forces and an attack on infrastructure inside Russia and Belarus. To do this, NATO’s forces will have deal with the issue of the depth of the territory, which is quite difficult given the vast space of Russia, while European countries do not have such depth physically, which makes them vulnerable in the case Russia retaliates (most likely with the use of nuclear weapons).

Russian experts call this an imitation of World War III, and the military department believes that NATO is preparing for armed aggression against Russia. This will inevitably require an appropriate response to contain and inflict irreparable damage to the enemy if NATO does risk entering into such a military conflict with Russia. While Moscow has not stated how exactly it will respond to the three-month exercise of the Western alliance, it is clear that it will test the combat readiness of its Western Military District in some capacity.

Of course, the interaction between Russia and Belarus is also a response to NATO’s challenge, and in this case the Union State took the lead even earlier as Russia stationed its nuclear weapons in Belarus and the countries joint air force and air defense training centers in addition to the existing military bases. Belarusian military personnel also often arrive in Russia to take training based on existing experience in the special military operation in Ukraine. Importantly, early in 2024 Belarus endorsed a new military doctrine stating that an attack on the ally (i.e., Russia) will be treated as an attack on Belarus itself. The interplay of the military (and economic) capabilities is crucial in the strategy of containing the West, indeed.

Russia is also likely to send forceful signals to the West by conducting some kind of exercises near the NATO borders as the display of military power, including the activation of strategic nuclear missile silos, should convince NATO strategists that Russia is ready to repel their attack. There may be the intensification of hacker groups who act against NATO countries, too. Although Western media try to link numerous cyber attacks to the Russian government, in fact there are quite a lot of independent hacker groups (and not only inside Russia) motivated by ideological beliefs. We are likely to soon hear news about some problems that these hackers caused in NATO countries.

The Global South can also draw conclusions from NATO exercises and Russia’s response as this geopolitical confrontation can make it easy for them to evaluate the intentions and goal-setting of the two sides. We should also remember the support of NATO countries for Israel, which continues to commit genocide against the Palestinians. This is, after all, a serious marker on the global geopolitical board, including issues that significantly exceed the real policy of balancing interests. Much more interesting however may be the strategic conclusions about further actions and new opportunities. The closing opportunities should also be taken into consideration, because strategically the Baltic is becoming a more vulnerable place for Russia, therefore, there will be interest in reorienting to a more reliable direction to build partnerships in which Russia can be confident.

NATO Military Exercises And Russia’s Response

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