North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has launched one of it’s biggest-ever military exercises in Estonia, near Russian border on Monday.
The exercise dubbed ‘Hedgehog 2022’ is one of the largest in the Baltic nation’s history, according to the military bloc. The drills will involve some 15,000 troops from 14 nations, including both military bloc members and their partners.
Soldiers from Finland, Sweden, Georgia and Ukraine are among those that will take part in the exercise, Finnish public broadcaster Yle reported.
The exercises in Estonia, which will last until 3 June, is said t have been arranged before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. NATO says the aim of the exercises is to “enhance the readiness and interoperability” of its forces.
Vladimir Putin has said Russia has no issue with Finland or Sweden, but a military expansion near its border would demand a reaction.
Sweden on Monday confirmed its intention to apply for Nato membership, joining Finland, which declared its position last week.
Some 15,000 troops are involved in the exercise in Estonia, making it one of the largest military drills held in the country since 1991.
The exercise is taking place 64km (40 miles) from Russia’s nearest military base. It is intended to simulate an attack from Russia on Estonia.
The drills will include all branches of the armed forces and will involve air, sea and land exercises, as well as cyber warfare training, according to the broadcaster.
According to a NATO statement, the drills will also see the US Navy Wasp-class landing ship ‘Kearsarge’ take part in the exercises. Both the military bloc and Estonian Defense Forces deputy commander, Major General Veiko-Vello Palm, have denied that the drills just over 60km from the Russian border have anything to do with Moscow’s ongoing military action in Ukraine.
The exercises in Estonia are just one part of NATO’s large-scale military activities currently ongoing in Europe. Other military exercises are going on in multiple countries.
Lithuania: This other Baltic state is hosting the “Iron Wolf” exercise, which involves 3,000 NATO troops and 1,000 pieces of military equipment, including Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks.
Poland and Eight other countries: Two of NATO’s biggest exercises – “Defender Europe” and “Swift Response” involving 18,000 troops from 20 nations are going on simultaneously in 9 countries, according to NATO’s statement on Friday.
“Exercises like these show that NATO stands strong and ready to protect our nations and defend against any threat,” the military bloc’s spokesperson, Oana Lungescu, said, adding that the drills “help to remove any room for miscalculation or misunderstanding about our resolve to protect and defend every inch of allied territory.”
Germany: “Wettiner Heide” drills involving 7,500 soldiers drawn from the NATO Response Force is currently ongoing.
Finland: The soon to be NATO member is hosting a joint land exercise, in which troops from the US, the UK, Estonia and Latvia are participating. In late April, it also hosted NATO naval drills.
In addition to the current drills, there are several upcoming drills as well.
Mediterranean Sea: The USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group will be placed under NATO command for the “Neptune series” naval drills. This will only be the second time since the end of the Cold War that a US carrier group has been transferred under the military bloc’s command, NATO has said.
Poland and the Baltic States (Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia): In June, there will be what NATO describes as “Europe’s largest integrated air and missile defense exercise,” which would involve 23 nations.
The massive military wargames are taking place amid heightened tensions between Russia, NATO and some of the military bloc’s partners.
Nnamdi Maduakor is a Writer, Investor and Entrepreneur