UK to send 20,000 troops to NATO exercise

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The UK’s Defence Ministry has stated that over 20,000 service people, as well as modern warships and fighter jets, will participate in a major NATO exercise amid escalating tensions with Russia.

In a statement issued on Monday, the ministry stated, citing excerpts from a speech to be delivered by Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, that approximately 16,000 army troops, as well as tanks, artillery, and helicopters, will join other bloc members on the continent to participate in Exercise Steadfast Defender 24, which is scheduled for the first half of this year.

The endeavour will be supported by eight warships and submarines, as well as 2,000 Royal Navy sailors. The UK will also deploy a handful of aircraft, including the F-35B Lightning.

Meanwhile, Shapps is expected to call the drill “one of NATO’s largest deployments since the end of the Cold War,” adding that the UK and its allies have found themselves “in a new era” and “must be prepared to deter our enemies,” according to the statement. The statement specifically referred to the threat from the Russian “menace.”

NATO began to strengthen its military presence in Europe after a Western-backed coup in Kiev sparked hostilities in Donbass, which is now part of Russia. However, the most dramatic buildup happened after Russia initiated a military operation against Ukraine in February 2022. In June of the same year, the US-led military alliance decided to increase the number of troops on high alert from 40,000 to 300,000 to deter Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stated that Moscow does not want to attack NATO, citing a lack of “geopolitical, economic, or military interest” in doing so. Nonetheless, Moscow has repeatedly cautioned that the alliance’s military activities near its border require more security measures. Putin has also expressed Ukraine’s intention to join.