NATO Drills Could Provoke ‘Military Incidents,’ Russia Warns

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NATO’s decision to launch its largest military exercise in more than 35 years could provoke “military incidents,” Russia’s deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko has warned.

Grushko spoke with Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti after the NATO military alliance said it would begin an operation dubbed “Steadfast Defender 2024,” which will involve around 90,000 troops.

The operation, NATO’s largest since the Cold War, will demonstrate how U.S. troops could reinforce European allies “during a simulated emerging conflict scenario against a near-peer adversary,” U.S. Army General Christopher Cavoli, who serves as supreme allied commander Europe for NATO, said on January 18.

“These exercises are another element of the hybrid war unleashed by the West against Russia,” Grushko said in the interview, which was published on Sunday.

French soldiers are seen during a NATO exercise in southern Germany on September 14, 2023. NATO’s decision to launch its largest military exercise in more than 35 years could provoke “military incidents,” Russia’s deputy foreign minister has warned.
CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images

“An exercise of this scale…marks the final and irrevocable return of NATO to the Cold War schemes, when the military planning process, resources and infrastructure are being prepared for confrontation with Russia,” Grushko said.

He warned that “any events of this scale significantly increase the risk of military incidents and further destabilize the security situation.”

“But the interests of European security today are of little concern to those who lead NATO; the main thing for them is to keep this instrument of American influence afloat in the already lost struggle to preserve Western hegemony in the world,” he added.

Russian officials have routinely insinuated that Moscow could attack NATO members for providing Ukraine with assistance in its war against Russia. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in December 2022 that such countries could be “legitimate military targets.”

Newsweek has contacted Russia’s defense ministry and NATO for comment by email.

Cavoli said on January 18 that the NATO operation would involve “approximately 90,000 forces from all 31 Allies and our good partner Sweden” and that it would begin this week and run through May.

“For the first time in 30 years, we have the strategy—deterrence and defense of the Euro-Atlantic area—and we have the plans to make the alliance fit for the purpose of collective territorial defense,” Cavoli said. “We are now in the process of making our plans executable. This means making sure we have the force commitments, command and control arrangements, and the enablement our plans require.”

“Steadfast Defender 2024 will be a clear demonstration of our unity, strength, and determination to protect each other, our values and the rules based international order,” Cavoli added.

Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, said the 90,000 military personnel represent “a record number of troops that we can bring to bear and have an exercise within that size, across the alliance, across the ocean from the U.S. to Europe.”

It marks the largest number of troops used by NATO in a military drill since the Cold War, when 125,000 soldiers were used in a 1988 exercise dubbed “Reforger.”

“The goal is clear: by demonizing Russia, intimidating the average person, to justify the unbridled increase in military spending…and at the same time force the Europeans to join the arms race even more energetically to the delight of the American military-industrial complex,” Grushko told RIA Novosti.

He added that Russia is not afraid of such “provocative demonstrations,” since it has “all the resources to ensure security and defense capability.”

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