NATO flexes defensive muscles in massive Norwegian exercise

NATO on Tuesday showcased how its land, sea and air forces would respond to an adversary that invades an alliance member — a thinly veiled reference to the threat posed by neighboring Russia.

The military demonstration at a wind-blown waterfront site near Trondheim was part of the massive, two-week Trident Juncture exercise and displayed the allies’ combined firepower to NATO dignitaries, foreign observers and the international media.

Military officials have stated that the exercise is not targeting any one country. But the fictitious scenario involves repelling a “near-peer” threat in Europe. NATO has been reassuring its allies in Eastern Europe against potential threats posed by Russia, whose military has grown more assertive since it annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

Last week, Moscow informed NATO that it plans to conduct a missile test in the North Atlantic, in the vicinity of where much of Trident Juncture is taking place. That announcement comes following Russia’s largest war games since the 1980s, together with China and Mongolia, as part of the Vostok-18 drills in eastern Siberia and the Far East in September.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Tuesday that the missile test is no call for alarm and he expects Russia to conduct itself safely and professionally. It’s important to coexist peacefully with Russia, he said.

“We don’t want a new Cold War,” Stoltenberg said. “We don’t want a new arms race.”

Trident Juncture is a defensive exercise aimed at preparing and testing allies’ teamwork in the face of a crisis, he added.

Tuesday’s well-orchestrated drills offered observers a glimpse of the 50,000 personnel, 65 warships and 250 aircraft participating in NATO’s largest war games since the end of the Cold War.

Seven frigates, 32 fighter jets, 14 helicopters, several armored vehicles and about 3,000 personnel took part in Tuesday’s mock defense of the Norwegian coast.

Fighter jets roared overhead and a phalanx of frigates kept vigil in a fjord while Marines made a simulated amphibious assault on a rural shoreline.

“We train to send a clear message to our own nations and to anyone who might want to challenge us,” Stoltenberg said. “NATO is ready and NATO is able to protect all our allies against any threat.”

All 29 NATO countries, along with partners Sweden and Finland, are taking part in the exercise. The U.S. is the largest participant, with more than 14,000 servicemembers from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

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