NATO’s secretary general said Tuesday he is confident the Western military alliance and Russia “will act in a respectable way” as both hold training exercises in the same area off Norway’s coast.
“This is not a Cold War situation,” Jens Stoltenberg said as he attended the Trident Juncture war games NATO is holding with around 50,000 personnel and a goal that is “purely to prevent, not to provoke.”
The alliance is conducting its largest military exercise since the end of the Cold War in central and eastern Norway, the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea until November 7. Russia has said its navy plans to test missiles November 1-3 in international waters off western Norway.
Russia was briefed by NATO in advance and invited to monitor the exercises, but the West’s military display angered Moscow, which thinks the alliance is behaving provocatively near its borders. The maneuvers that started Thursday come amid persistent tensions between NATO and Russia.
“This is a necessary exercise” to “send a strong signal of unity,” Stoltenberg told reporters as he visited the NATO maneuvers involving military personnel from all 29 NATO members, plus partners Finland and Sweden.
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There are 65 ships, 250 aircraft and 10,000 vehicles responding to a hypothetical scenario that involves restoring Norway’s sovereignty after an attack by a “fictitious aggressor.”
The U.S. Navy admiral commanding the war games said Russia has been monitoring the maneuvers with “curiosity,” judging from recent regional movements of Russian troops in the air and at sea. He did not elaborate.
“I have no issue with that as long as it doesn’t interfere with what we do,” Adm. James Foggo told reporters in Finland on Friday, adding that he expected Moscow to take a “professional” stance and to dispatch military observers.
Hundreds of Finnish and Swedish air, infantry and naval troops were participating in Trident Juncture. The countries have been alarmed by neighboring Russia’s substantially increased military maneuvers in the region during the past few years.
The Russian Foreign Ministry told the Sweden and Finland last week that NATO’s drill “fits within the policy of the United States toward making Europe less secure.”
In conjunction with Trident Juncture, the USS Harry S. Truman, a massive aircraft carrier, was leading a U.S. strike carrier group conducting air, surface and underwater exercises in the rough Arctic seas, Foggo said.
It was the first time since the end of the Cold War that a U.S. aircraft carrier sailed so far above the Arctic Circle, he said.