NATO is increasing its military presence in the Atlantic and Arctic regions. This is the first phase of the major military exercise “Steadfast Defender 2024”, which will last until mid-March. From mid-February to the end of May, military personnel from the Arctic and the Eastern Flank will also be trained. Nearly 90,000 military personnel are participating in the exercise. The Ministry of Defense says that the presence of troops and the conduct of active actions are not foreseen in Bulgaria.

The exercise will rehearse an attack on allied territory that triggers Article 5 of the NATO treaty.

Within the framework of the large exercise, there will also be 16 smaller ones at different times and in different regions. The main maneuvers will be in Germany, Poland and the Baltic states. Between Poland and Lithuania lies a narrow corridor known as the Suwalki Corridor. It is the only land connection between Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia with Poland and NATO countries.

The military involved included 16,000 British troops, 15,000 from Poland and 10,000 from Germany. NATO’s very high readiness forces will train separately at a training ground in Poland.

The commander of NATO forces in Europe, General Christopher Cavoli, explained:

“We need to train and refine our plans through the exercises. This exercise will continue in May. It is the largest NATO exercise in decades. The alliance will demonstrate its ability to strengthen the Euro-Atlantic region through the deployment of US forces. This strengthening will take place during a simulated conflict scenario against a close adversary. The exercise will be a clear demonstration of our unity, strength and determination to defend each other in accordance with our values, rules in accordance with the international order.”

Bulgarian officers who serve in the NATO headquarters participated in the planning of the exercise, said Deputy Minister of Defense Atanas Zapryanov.

He explained that it was a defensive exercise:

“NATO does not have any offensive intentions. This exercise is primarily aimed at showing Russia that NATO is ready to defend its territory. It is not aimed at influencing Russia’s war against Ukraine.”

Russia described the planned exercise as an “irreversible return” of the alliance to Cold War schemes. The previous major NATO exercise was in 2018. Around 51,000 troops took part, mainly in Norway.