NATO is going to carry out its largest military drills in over 10 years, focusing on battling ISIS, according to NATO commanders.
NATO forces will be deployed across the Mediterranean, while Russia is invited to observe the drills. It is unclear whether this is some kind of ruse or NATO just wants to show off in front of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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The Alliance’s largest military drills named ‘Trident Juncture’ will be carried out from September 28 to November 6 in Spain, Italy and Portugal as well as in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
According to NATO commanders, it will be one of the Alliance’s most difficult military drill plans yet. The drills will be aimed at training and testing the NATO Response Force, which is a high readiness militarily advanced and well-trained unit that includes land, aerial and maritime forces.
The military drills will also include an “artificial threat scenario” on the ground, sea, as well as in the air.
“We cannot choose between the eastern threat and the southern threat, we have to train for both,” said commander of the NATO military command in Brunssum, Netherlands General Hans-Lothar Domrose, who is in charge of the exercise, as quoted by Reuters.
NATO kills two birds with one stone
The move thus proves that the West is now facing two ‘existential threats’ Russia and ISIS. And while Russia is invited to observe the major event, NATO is likely to kill two birds with one stone, showing off its military might in front of both ISIS and Russia.
As announced by the commanders, about 36,000 personnel from more than 30 countries will take part in the exercises, including countries that are not in the Alliance such as Australia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Macedonia, Sweden as well as Ukraine.
“Distance is a new factor. We will be working in a huge training area,” Domrose said. “We will focus on speed, on multiple threats, simultaneously.”
While Russia has not yet confirmed its participation as an observer, the European Union, the African Union as well as some other international humanitarian organizations have given their confirmation.
And while NATO is preparing for the drills, it is also working on the effectiveness of its rapid reaction force that is expected to consist of several thousand soldiers in order to be deployed anytime anywhere.
In September 2014, the Alliance pledged to develop its high readiness force in Europe, especially paying particular attention to the borders with Russia.
Besides, the Pentagon has recently announced about its plans to station 250 tanks and other armored vehicles in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. There were also reports of NATO’s plans to station some of its heavy military equipment in Germany.
Over 10 years ago, NATO carried out a military exercise of such large scale, in which 15 members of the Alliance as well as 12 other partnering nations took part. The military drills took place in Norway and Poland in 2002.
The NATO’s commanders also revealed that the Alliance’s naval forces will aid in dealing with the migrant boat crisis in the Mediterranean Sea during the exercise. Apparently, NATO is concerned over the growing number of people escaping major conflicts in Syria and North Africa.
“If there is a crisis in the vicinity of one of our ships … we will stop the exercise and give humanitarian help,” Domrose said. “We will not let people die.”
Will the Americans calm Putin down?
In over a year, it is the first time when NATO does not focus its military drills on Russia’s threats, let alone lets Putin to observe the drills.
“We invite international observers. [We have] no secrets, the secret is, what decisions I take, but everything else is transparent. And my decisions during the exercise would be transparent, as soon as I take them. The Russian Federation and all others who have expressed interest will be invited,” Domrose stated.
The growing threat and instability coming from the terror network operating in Iraq and Syria has forced NATO to look away from Russia even though it is no less threatening than ISIS, according to Domrose.
Domrose added that the kind of threats coming from ISIS are aimed at changing geographical boundaries, as the terrorist network widely uses social media as a way of propaganda to initiate terrorist attacks across the planet.
However, it does not mean NATO is going to loosen its grip on Russia. The indication of that is the recently carried out military drills close to Russia’s borders that were named “Agile Spirit 2015.” The drills began in Georgia on July 8 and included soldiers from six countries.
Another large-scale NATO military drills took place this summer and included no less than 49 vessels from 17 countries, with 5,600 troops participating in the BALTOPS exercises in the Baltic Sea in June. The drills started in the Polish port of Gdynia on June 5 and continued until June 20.
The reason why NATO has not fully shifted its focus to ISIS instead of Russia is because there is always a high possibility of Putin making sudden moves.
Putin’s strategy is sudden and irrational. And the proof of that is his decision to order Russian troops to take over Crimea in 2014 as well as his ongoing efforts to tear apart Ukraine with the help of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.
However, as of today, the Obama administration is not particularly concerned over Putin’s growing appetite, which raises the question: during the presidential election of 2016, will the Americans elect the leader that is able to calm Mr Putin down?