The US Army is leading the Defender Europe exercise.

It was conducted in the Baltics, the Balkans and the Black Sea in the spring and early summer when 28,000 soldiers from 26 countries practiced.

Compared to the Russian exercise Zapad, the exercise is small.

This year's edition of Zapad included 200,000 soldiers.

US and allies practice air landing at Boboc Air Force Base in Romania during Exercise Defender Europe 21. Photo: US Army May 10, 2021

Russian criticism

Russian state-controlled news agency Tass recently stated that Russia did not invite NATO defense attachés to the Zapad exercise earlier this autumn.

It was a response to the fact that NATO did not invite Russia as an observer to Defender Europe, according to the Kremlin.

SVT Nyheter has contacted NATO headquarters.

It replies that Russia has "again failed" to announce major exercises in advance, according to the so-called Vienna document.

The Secretary General of NATO will address this to the Russian Foreign Minister at a meeting in September.

"We urge Russia to follow the spirit and wording of the Vienna Document in terms of military presence and activity, including the mandatory transparency measures established by all OSCE participating States, including Russia," Irina Novakova of the NATO Press Service said in a statement. 

She emphasizes that each country has the right to conduct military exercises, as long as it takes place within the framework of its international commitments.

"NATO strongly believes in transparency and predictability in military contexts."

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a meeting in connection with the opening of the UN's 76th General Assembly in New York.

Photo: Russian Ministry of Defense 22 September 2021

The United States is leading the exercise

NATO says that Defender Europe is an exercise led by the United States and that it is host nations where the exercise took place that can invite Russian observers - if they decide. 

SVT Nyheter has been in contact with the headquarters of the US European Army, which replies that Russia was not invited to the exercise because the US was not a host nation.

"A host nation may invite representatives of the OSCE participating States to observe military exercises on its territory so that they can verify that they are defense exercises - but that depends on the decisions the host nation makes," Audra Calloway told the US Army Press Service. in Europe and Africa.

She adds that the United States and host nations provided the necessary announcements in accordance with the Vienna Document to all OSCE participating States.

SVT News has not been in contact with the 16 countries where the exercise was held.

American soldier in C-17 Globemaster before air landing of heavy military equipment in Estonia during Defender Europe.

Photo: Christopher Muncy / Combat Camera 7 May 2021

Keywords: defender, europe, nato, russia, united states, exercise, military exercise, us army, zapad, observer, soldiers, places, military alliance, baltics, osce