NATO and its allies opened their largest military exercise in more than a decade on Monday, choosing the central Mediterranean to showcase strengths that face threats from Russia’s growing military presence from the Baltics to Syria.
As planes flew over a gala ceremony for NATO’s military and political leaders at an air base in southern Italy, Russia’s resurgence was the central topic of concern, pushing NATO to embark on its biggest modernization since the Cold War.
“This sends a very clear message to any potential aggressor,” NATO’s top commander General Philip Breedlove said of the Trident Juncture exercises and the testing of a new rapid-reaction force.
“Any attempt to violate the sovereignty of one NATO nation will result in the decisive military engagement of all NATO nations,” Breedlove said, before donning flight gear to oversee a fly-over of dozens of fighter jets and camouflaged helicopters.
But looming over the exercises involving some 36,000 troops, ships and aircraft over five weeks is the issue of how far Russia’s growing military presence from the Baltics to Syria can limit NATO’s ability to move around by sea and air.
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