Israel Takes Part In Major NATO Exercise Near Russian Borders

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NATO launches three major drills close to Russia

A massive U.S.-led military exercise involving 18,000 soldiers from 19 primarily NATO countries was launched on Sunday in Poland and the Baltic states.

The U.S. led military bloc said that the Saber Strike 18 drill is spread around the region until June 15 as “a demonstration of the commitment and solidarity of the Alliance” at a time when Russia’s military maneuvers are increasingly worrying nearby NATO members.

It stressed, however, that the war games are not aimed at provoking Russia.

The US Army Europe said “Saber Strike 18 is not a provocation of Russia but an exercise with our Allies”

Dozens of Israeli paratroopers were being dispatched to Eastern Europe to take part in the Saber Strike for the first time.

RT reports: Ten NATO member states, including UK, Italy, Poland and Portugal, have also been taking part in the annual ‘Swift Response’ drills, spearheaded by the US European Command since last week. The exercise, staged across Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, also sees the troops from non-NATO member Israel training alongside the alliance forces for the first time.

Israel had been an active NATO partner since the 90s, intensifying cooperation with the bloc in recent years in combating terror threats and other areas. The Israeli diplomatic mission at NATO HQ in Brussels was opened in 2016, with several cooperation agreements following. However, as NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg confirmed last week, the bloc’s security guarantees “do not apply” to Israel since it is not a member of the alliance.

According to the Pentagon, the ‘Saber Strike’ maneuvers include “rapid response infiltration,” air assault operations and the evacuation of non-combatants. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that ‘Swift Response’ drills “simulate combating military uprisings in Europe.”

Additionally, 37 warships are docked at the Lithuanian port city of Klaipeda for an ongoing naval drill ‘BALTOPS’. All in all, the exercise led by US 6th Fleet Vice Admiral Lisa Franchetti will involve 60 aircraft and 42 ships from 22 nations. The drills, which simulate a military conflict between two countries, will see the NATO naval forces working on improving the maneuverability of vessels, convoying of ships as well as performing live firings and searches for mines.

All the war games are taking place close to the Russian border, and Moscow has been regularly warning that NATO military buildup at its doorstep undermines the stability and security climate on the European continent. The US-led block boosted its military presence and intensified military exercises near Eastern Europe after Moscow’s reunion with Crimea and the beginning of the military conflict in Ukraine in 2014.

Russia is “closely monitoring” the NATO war games, “especially, those, which take place in certain proximity to our borders,” Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said. “It goes without saying that our agencies are taking all the necessary measures to assure the security of our country against the backdrop of such maneuvers.”

Niamh Harris
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