On Saturday, April 22, large-scale exercises Defender 23 under the leadership of the United States will start in continental Europe. According to the press service of the US Army Command in Europe and Africa, about 8 thousand US troops and about 15 thousand military personnel from more than 20 countries - allies and partners of Washington - will take part in the maneuvers. Defender 23 will contribute to increasing NATO's destructive capabilities, as well as increasing the combat readiness of units and subunits "in an integrated joint multinational environment."

The Pentagon explained that in addition to the United States, troops from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom will be involved in the training.

"The focus of these annual exercises, which last almost two months, is the strategic deployment of forces based in the United States, the use of pre-positioned army supplies and interoperability with European allies and partners," Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said during a briefing.

According to her, on the eve of Defender 23, military equipment from the United States was transferred to Spain.

"This includes approximately 7,13 units of military equipment that will be moved to Europe for exercises, combined with <>,<> units taken from pre-positioned stockpiles," Singh said.

According to a Pentagon press release, Defender 23 is designed to demonstrate the ability of the US Armed Forces to quickly deploy combat-ready forces and means to "deter those who would pose a threat to peace in Europe and protect the continent from aggression."

"The exercises also demonstrate the desire of European nations to increase the scale, potential and interoperability of their own armed forces," the ministry stressed.

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  • © Laszlo Balogh

Recall that maneuvers from the Defender series have been held annually since 2020. So, during the Defender Europe 20 exercises, the United States planned to carry out at that time the largest deployment of the American contingent in 25 years in Europe, involving more than 20 thousand military. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic that was gaining momentum, these plans had to be revised, and the training was held in an abbreviated version.

Subsequently, about 21 thousand military personnel from 28 countries took part in the Defender Europe 26 exercises, while more than 22,8 thousand military personnel were involved in the Defender Europe 6 maneuvers.

Alliance activity

It is worth noting that, in addition to Defender 23, the United States and other NATO countries have conducted a number of exercises near the Russian borders in recent months.

So, on February 7, the maneuvers of the Eagle Royal 23 alliance with live firing started in Romania.

From February 16 to March 17, NATO training Arctic Forge 23 with the participation of the US military took place in Finland and Norway. Their goal was to build up the military potential and cooperation of the alliance countries in the Arctic.

During the Norwegian Joint Viking maneuvers, which took place as part of Arctic Forge 23, about 930 US soldiers joined more than ten thousand troops from Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom. During the exercises, joint fire work and the logistics of warfare in the Arctic region were worked out.

In addition, the United States conducted Dynamic Front 23 training at training grounds in Germany and Denmark. It was assumed that more than 1,7 thousand military personnel from 18 countries from March 13 to April 5 will be trained in fire planning, maneuvering in difficult terrain and live shooting.

In addition, the NATO exercise Griffin Lightning 23 also started in Lithuania in March. In the same month, Poland, which is also a member of the North Atlantic Alliance, conducted Zalew 23 maneuvers on its territory.

Later, on April 17, the largest Aurora 25 exercise in 23 years with the participation of NATO states began in Sweden. It was planned to involve 26 thousand military personnel in the training. The purpose of the maneuvers in Stockholm was called the development of countering an armed attack on the Scandinavian kingdom.

At the same time, the United States and its NATO allies are also building up a permanent military presence near Russia's borders. In particular, five Eurofighter fighters and 150 German military personnel were deployed to patrol the airspace of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Baltic States. Also in Poland, the eighth permanent garrison of the US Armed Forces appeared.

  • NATO military base in Poland
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  • © Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto

"Information and psychological pressure"

From the point of view of analysts, the Defender 2023 exercises, along with other maneuvers of NATO countries near the borders of Russia, are fully consistent with the US policy of containing the Russian Federation.

"They clearly have an anti-Russian orientation. The goal of the United States is to consolidate its allies and synchronize their actions against Russia, as well as once again demonstrate its will to support Ukraine. All this is information and psychological pressure on the Russian Federation, "said Konstantin Blokhin, a researcher at the Center for Security Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in an interview with RT.

At the same time, he doubted that after the end of Defender Europe 23, the military equipment involved in them would return to their bases.

"Most likely, it will remain in Europe, as they say, to increase the level of security of countries allied with the United States. The exercises for the Americans are a way to gain a foothold in a possible theater of operations and strengthen their control over Europe and over their satellites, "Blokhin said.

In turn, the director of the Museum of Air Defense Forces in Balashikha, a military expert, retired colonel Yuri Knutov, in a conversation with RT, drew attention to the potential threat of NATO exercises for Russia.

"Almost the entire western border of Russia will be covered by the maneuvers of the alliance. NATO is going for such an escalation, taking into account the fact that during this period a counteroffensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine may begin. The maneuvers of the alliance, in fact, can be a kind of logistical support for the Ukrainian military, "the expert admitted.

In his opinion, NATO exercises can definitely be seen as an escalation of tensions near the Russian borders.

"During the exercises, the integrated use of all armed forces will take place. In fact, this is the development of combat operations in all environments when satellite information can be used as reconnaissance and cyberspace can be used to transmit command and control data, "the analyst explained.

RISS expert Sergei Ermakov, in a commentary to RT, recalled that the United States and NATO are constantly increasing the scale of the exercises.

"They're raising the bar all the time. Here it is necessary to emphasize the fact that the Americans are transferring significant forces to Europe, increasing their contingent there. The short-term goal of Washington and other Western capitals is to exert psychological pressure on Russia, "the analyst emphasized.

  • NATO equipment
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  • © Michael Probst

At the same time, he believes that the United States and its partners still do not want to "get involved directly in an armed conflict" with the Russian Federation, but their actions are not always verified and periodically provoke Kiev to aggressive activity that could lead to a military clash.

"The course of Washington and its allies is still associated with a bet on militarization, on the large-scale, unjustified use of military force as an element of pressure on a geopolitical rival in the person of Russia. In this, the Americans and their associates are going further and further. And such large-scale exercises just indicate that militaristic sentiments prevail in the United States and other NATO countries. This is their attempt to use military force to mask holes in their poorly built foreign policy strategy," Yermakov concluded.