NATO Has Launched Largest Ever Aerial Exercises

World leaders say Russian President Vladimir Putin should take note of the massive show of force

NATO allied air forces have started the largest military exercise in the alliance’s history.

The exercise “Air Defender” will take place in Germany and involve 25 nations, around 10,000 personnel, and 250 aircraft. Training missions will primarily take place over the North and Baltic Seas, as well as southern Germany.

Those three zones will be closed to civilian air traffic for several hours each day.

“‘Air Defender’ sends a clear message that NATO is ready to defend every inch of Allied territory,” NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said in a statement. “Air Defender is necessary because we live in a more dangerous world. As we face the biggest security crisis in a generation, we stand united to keep our countries and our people safe.”

She added that the exercise “is a strong display of Germany’s commitment, and capabilities and we thank Germany for hosting this record exercise. With 250 aircraft, including around 100 from the United States, Air Defender also demonstrates the strong bond between Europe and North America, working together in NATO.”

Though the operation is taking place as tensions rise over Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, “Air Defender” has been planned for several years.

The focus of the training missions will be to ensure allied forces are ready to respond together to protect against aircraft, drones, and missile attacks on cities and critical infrastructure.

Some of the drills are ground-based and will include an airfield evacuation.

Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russia Today, has predicted that Russian President Vladimir Putin will soon issue threats against NATO member nations, which he views as legitimate targets.

“One morning we’ll wake up to find out that last night Vladimir Putin has declared an ultimatum, saying that if F-16 jets taking off from the airfields of such countries continue striking Russian territory—if such and such weapons, shipped from the ports of such and such countries, continue being supplied, then we will consider these airfields and these ports legitimate war targets,” Simonyan said.

According to a top German official, one goal of the exercise will be to send a political message of deterrence.

“Of course, this sends a clear signal, saying that even though this airspace is extremely busy, they are prepared to say, ‘we will defend every centimeter of NATO territory,” Torben Arnold of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs told German media outlet DW.

Amy Gutmann, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, says the exercises will be an “impressive” show of force toward other nations.

“I would be pretty surprised if any world leader was not taking note of what this shows in terms of the spirit of this alliance, which means the strength of this alliance,” she told reporters in Germany. “And that includes Mr. Putin.”

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