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NATO bares its teeth

Admiral Rob Bauer, seen here in Tallinn, Estonia, in September 2022. ​

Admiral Rob Bauer, seen here in Tallinn, Estonia, in September 2022.

REUTERS/Janis Laizans

Almost two years after Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s existential battle continues. The static frontlines look a lot like a stalemate, and US public and political opinions toward further funding for Ukraine are in doubt, but fears of regional escalation remain. Just this week, for example, the Belarusian defense minister said he would put forward a new military doctrine allowing for the use of nuclear weapons.

In response to possible aggression falling into NATO territory, the alliance is hellbent on preparedness. Addressing fellow NATO leaders in Brussels on Wednesday, Admiral Rob Bauer, chair of the NATO Military Committee, warned of the need to prepare for an era “in which anything can happen at any time. An era in which we need to expect the unexpected.” Bauer and his colleagues are meeting to discuss attempts to do just that with Steadfast Defender, the largest military exercise in Europe since the Cold War.

Showing off friendly muscle. The NATO training exercises, to be held from February to June in Germany, Poland, and the Baltics, will involve more than 40,000 troops from across the 31-nation alliance (plus pending member Sweden). The work will test the troops’ ability to quickly mobilize in case of a Russian attack while showing off the alliance’s strength and unity.

Not to be outdone, Russia will also host military drills this year with “Ocean-2024,” bringing together all branches of the Russian Armed Forces and units of “foreign states,” according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

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