NATO countries are staging massive air, land and sea exercises across Russia’s northern borders this month in response to warnings from the Kremlin and strategic analysts that President Vladimir Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons are more than bluster.
The exercises in Estonia, Lithuania and Norway involve more than 21,000 troops and state-of-the-art military hardware. 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.
Troops, trainers and readiness testers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have been bolstering defenses along what Eastern Europeans call the new Iron Curtain. Although it still divides East from West, this time there are former Soviet subjects on the western side of the ideological border.