Coming off last week’s 70th anniversary NATO conference in London where deep cracks in the Western alliance were felt more than ever, and where its mission scope is now proposed as including China (given many are questioning ‘what’s next?’) — a summit which President Trump also abruptly departed early after the ‘hot mic’ incident involving world leaders laughing at him, Washington is signalling its abiding commitment to NATO by planning massive war games on European soil in April.
This also after Trump lambasted low-spending European allies as “delinquent” but also hit back at French President Macron’s prior “brain death” of NATO comments as “very nasty” remarks. When in doubt, hold a massive military show of force, apparently:
The United States will send 20,000 troops to Europe next April and May in its biggest military exercises on European soil since the Cold War to underscore Washington’s commitment to NATO, a senior allied commander said on Tuesday.
US Air Force Allied Powers Europe commander, Maj. Gen. Barre R. Seguin in the days following the London summit announced the Germany-based exercises will be the largest of their kind in 25 years, Reuters reports.
“This really demonstrates transatlantic unity and the U.S. commitment to NATO,” Gen. Seguin told reporters from Belgium. “We have not demonstrated this ability to rapidly reinforce, from a transatlantic perspective … for 25 years or so,” he added. And speaking to the continued ‘relevance’ of NATO, Gen. Seguin said, “We’re going into an era of strategic competition in peacetime” as “the alliance has reorientated.”
In total the exercises are expected to involve some 37,000 total NATO troops, the bulk of them American forces, from 18 NATO allied countries. The last such similar major drills in the heart of Europe were the ‘Return of Forces to Germany’, or ‘REFORGER’ maneuvers, of the 1980s.
Crucially, the games will specifically simulate readiness for another ‘annexation of Crimea’ heightened situation aimed at Russia, according to Reuters:
Eager to deter Russia from any repeat of its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, the U.S. Army will test its ability to transport the soldiers across the Atlantic to Belgium and the Netherlands and then move quickly east through Germany into Poland and along NATO’s eastern flank.
The timing of this announcement and consciously invoking the ‘Russian threat’ in Ukraine is also interesting given the unprecedented face to face meeting between Ukrainian President Zelensky and Vladimir Putin this week in Paris to find a way forward in resolving the Donbass crisis.
At the talks also hosted by France’s Macron and Germany’s Merkel, significant headway was reportedly made on agreement toward a ceasefire in Ukraine’s war-torn east, however, details have been sparse.