NATO is sending Putin a clear message

Nato exercise norway submarineBalazs Koranyi/REUTERSWarships and a Swedish submarine participate in NATO’s Dynamic Mongoose anti-submarine exercise in the North Sea off the coast of Norway May 4, 2015.

Amid near Cold War level tensions in the Baltics and signs that Russian-backed Ukrainian rebels are gearing up for another offensive, NATO is sending Putin a clear message: Do not think about meddling in NATO states in the Baltic or eastern Europe. 

NATO is holding a series of large high-profile military drills involving air, ground, and sea forces along Russia’s borders in the Baltics and Scandinavia. Responding to increased provocation and threatening language from Putin, the exercises are being held in three NATO frontline states.  

 “The exercises in Estonia, Lithuania and Norway involve more than 21,000 troops and state-of-the-art military hardware,” Carol J. Williams reports for the LA Times. “Coupled with U.S. training of Ukrainian forces and the recent activation of a 3,000-strong rapid-reaction force to defend Eastern Europe, they appear intended to send a message to Moscow that the alliance is ready to defend its new members in Russia’s backyard.” 

Operation Dynamic Mongoose, which involves 10 NATO countries and Sweden, is being held off the coast of Norway in the North Sea. The exercise focuses on anti-submarine warfare, which has taken on a new level of immediacy following what are believed to be intrusions by Russian submarines in Swedish and Finnish territorial waters.  

Meanwhile, Estonia is holding its largest-ever military exercise, Operation Hedgehog. The two week long exercise will involve 13,000 soldiers from across NATO and the Estonian military. It will feature a mix of air and ground forces.

Lithuania is also hosting Operation Lightning Strike. The exercise will feature over 3,000 soldiers and police in order to assess how well the military and civilians collaborate in high risk situations. The operation will also focus upon how to deal with a possible infiltration of Lithuania by Russian “little green men” as happened in Crimea. 

The scope and size of the exercises underlines how anxious NATO frontline states have become in the face of increasingly bellicose Russian language. 

“It’s clear that we find ourselves in a period of high risk of war in Poland. We live in the shadow of Russian imperialism,” Pawel Kowal, a Polish lawmaker, told the LA Times. “This is the last paroxysm of colonial power. It takes a long time for an empire to fall.”

There are now nearly daily eye-to-eye encounters over the Baltic Sea between NATO and Russian jets. Simultaneously, Moscow has embarked on a drastic militarization push in the Arctic, Crimea, and the Russian Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.

In response, beyond the launch of the NATO exercises, the Nordic countries have announced plans to increase their defensive ties in the event of a war.

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