BRUSSELS: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg insisted Monday that a massive transfer of US and allied troops to Eastern Europe as part of a military exercise was not aimed at Russia.
About 37,000 soldiers from 18 countries are to participate in the US-run manoeuvre dubbed Defender Europe 2020.This is “the largest deployment of US troops to Europe in more than 25 years,” Stoltenberg told AFP. The exercise “shows the strong US commitment to NATO and to the freedom and security of Europe,” he added. The exercise will take place in May and June, mainly in Germany, Poland and the Baltic States. The US will move 20,000 soldiers to Europe in the coming months.
“Defender Europe is not directed against any particular country,” Stoltenberg said.
“This defensive exercise demonstrates the ability to rapidly move a large force from the United States to Europe to help protect other NATO Allies, if needed,” he said. The exercise comes amid doubts over whether the US is still prepared to defend Europe.
After his inauguration, US President Donald Trump initially described NATO as “obsolete”.
But after Germany and the other European members pledged higher defence spending, Trump reaffirmed his commitment to the alliance.
NATO’s sense of purpose took a boost after the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia in 2014, fuelling fears among eastern NATO members.