BERLIN – The new American-led “Defender of Europe” exercise, which is months long and lasts from February until July, involves over 20,000 American troops – more than those of all its NATO allies put together, and more than at any time in the past quarter-century.
Although United States officials do not say it is designed to counter the mythical Russian threat, the demonstration of US force capability comes after years of piecemeal reinforcements of NATO’s eastern flank following Russia’s reunification with Crimea in March 2014.
It is no coincidence that Germany was chosen as the main site for the exercises. It’s no less remarkable that 20,000 troops, passing through Germany, will be relocated to Poland. It’s well known that Poland is an outpost of the anti-Russian policy of the West and a conductor of US ideas. These teachings are also one of the ways of imposing moral, if not military, pressure, and not so much on Russia as on Europe.
The Chief of the German Joint Support and Enabling Service, Lieutenant General Martin Schelleis, argues that the exercises should “make a significant contribution” to the defense of Germany and are a “response to the annexation of Crimea by Russia”. This argument sounds more than strange six years after the secession of territories from Ukraine and casts doubt on the sincerity of the general.
NATO does not consider the “Defense of Europe” an empty rattling of weapons. However, the German public does not share this approach. Protests have been going on since the beginning of February. Greenpeace has already staged a demonstration under the motto “Stop the war games, save the world,” saying that the maneuvers are an unnecessary provocation in the context of an already growing escalation.
The provocative movement of an entire army to Europe is also understood in NATO itself. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg assures that the Defender Europe 2020 is by no means directed against Russia. At the same time, the scenario of a war with Russia will be worked out on the streets of European cities.
According to the plan, the Russian Federation will be taken into a symbolic environment, NATO troops will be transferred even to Georgia. However, opponents of the war are preparing for major protests against these exercises. The exercises testify not so much about the power of NATO, but about the problems within the Euro-Atlantic alliance.
Such grandiose maneuvers are being held after the block’s anniversary summit in December last year, which revealed serious disagreements. It turned out that NATO is no longer a bloc in which only the United States dictates the rules. In principle, the bloc was created 70 years ago to ensure American interests in Europe and to prevent the Soviet Union from moving west.
Over the years, much has changed, and the allies are less and less willing to depend on the United States. In addition, on many examples, the bloc’s members have had to make sure more than once that the bloc has lost its significance as a protector of the interest of all its members, even theoretically.
Until recently, European leaders tried to indulge Washington, but in November last year, a dam of silence broke through. French President Emmanuel Macron announced the “brain death” of NATO. So he reacted to the US decision to withdraw troops from Syria and the parallel decision of Turkey to begin a military operation in the north of this country.
Some NATO countries, for example, France and Italy, favor a more open relationship with Russia, which the US does not like, counting on Europeans to “hold the enemy in a black body.” Formerly socialist Eastern European countries are in solidarity with Americans and their radicalism only increases tension, creating problems for Russia’s traditional economic partners, which have certain obligations within NATO.
No one expects a war in Europe. The militaries of the US and Russia are unlikely to meet on the battlefield in the foreseeable future. Still, NATO’s approach to Russian borders and even a hint of a military threat will hit the region, if not with missiles, then economically. Modern world processes are so interconnected that one wrong step entails dozens of other errors and problems.