ABOARD HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, May 28 (AP)
AS TENSIONS with Russia simmer, thousands of NATO troops, several warships and dozens of aircraft are taking part in military exercises stretching across the Atlantic, through Europe and into the Black Sea region.
The war games, dubbed Steadfast Defender 21, are aimed at simulating the 30-nation military organisation’s response to an attack on any one of its members. It will test NATO’s ability to deploy troops from America and keep supply lines open.
Russia’s decision last month to send thousands of troops to the border area with Ukraine has raised concern at the military alliance, which launched one of its biggest ever defence spending initiatives after Russian troops annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
Top NATO brass insist that the military exercises, involving some 9,000 troops from 20 nations, are not aimed at Russia specifically, but they focus on the Black Sea region, where Russia stands accused of blocking the free navigation of ships.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the exercises send an important message to any potential adversary: “NATO is ready.” “NATO is there to defend all our allies, and this exercise sends a message about our ability to transport a large number of troops, equipment across the Atlantic, across Europe and also to project maritime power,” Stoltenberg told The Associated Press aboard a British aircraft carrier off the coast of Portugal.