NATO will launch major war games next week with about 90,000 troops to prepare for a potential conflict with Russia that will mark the alliance’s largest military exercises since the end of the Cold War.
“Exercise Steadfast Defender 2024 will be the largest NATO exercise in decades, with participation from approximately 90,000 forces from all 31 Allies and our good partner Sweden,” Gen. Christopher Cavoli, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, told reporters.
The drills will take place across Europe and will involve reinforcements coming from North America. “This reinforcement will occur during a simulated emerging conflict scenario against a near-peer adversary,” Cavoli said.
Adm. Rob Bauer, the Dutch chairman of the NATO military committee, made clear the drills were about preparing for war with Russia. “I’m not saying it is going wrong tomorrow, but we have to realize it’s not a given that we are in peace,” Bauer said, according to Stars & Stripes.
Bauer suggested last year that NATO countries should discuss shifting their economies to a “war economy,” where civilian factories would start producing military goods, similar to what the United States did during World War II, and said on Thursday that European societies need to be ready for a conflict. “It is the whole of society that will get involved (in a war) whether we like it or not,” he said.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and NATO, through its weight behind the Ukrainian war effort, the Western military alliance has been preparing for the possibility of direct war with Russia despite the risk of it quickly turning nuclear.
Last summer, NATO drew up plans on how to fight a war with Russia for the first time in decades that were approved at the alliance’s Vilnius summit. “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.