NATO Launches Largest European Military Exercises Since Cold War with Over 90,000 Personnel Participating



NATO has initiated its largest European military exercises in decades, named Operation Steadfast Defender 2024. The exercise spans over three months featuring naval, air, and ground maneuvers across Europe, engaging 990,000 personnel from all 31 member countries and Sweden, which is currently in talks to join the alliance. This operation marks a significant scale-up in readiness and complexity in response to the changing security landscape in Europe, particularly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The exercises aim to test NATO’s capability to rapidly deploy forces from North America to Europe and bolster defenses against potential threats, while also sending a clear message to Russia regarding the alliance’s strength and unity.

  • NATO’s Operation Steadfast Defender 2024 is the largest European military exercise since the Cold War, involving 990,000 personnel from 31 member countries and Sweden.
  • The exercises span naval, air, and ground maneuvers, demonstrating NATO’s readiness across Europe.
  • This year’s operation significantly escalates in scale, reflecting the alliance’s response to the evolving security situation in Europe, especially after the 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
  • More than 90,000 soldiers, sailors, and air personnel are taking part, alongside over 50 naval vessels, 80 aircraft, and 1,000 combat vehicles.
  • The operation is both a test of operational capability and a demonstration of strength to Russia, which perceives NATO’s exercises as a threat.
  • Russia views NATO as a hostile alliance, especially in light of major exercises like Steadfast Defender.
  • Discussion on NATO contributions has been reignited by US Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, highlighting concerns over defense spending among member countries.
  • Despite criticisms, NATO defense spending has increased, with roughly two-thirds of European and North American allies meeting the 2% GDP target for defense expenditure.
  • The possibility of a European army and the future of NATO, especially under a potential second Trump presidency, raises questions about the alliance’s solidarity and collective defense commitments.

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