TRONDHEIM, Norway -- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has conducted one of the largest military drills in Norway since the end of the Cold War in an apparent bid to counter Russia's "hybrid" warfare of its military intervention, cyberattacks, and other operations, as manifested in Ukraine in 2014 and other locations.
Russia has bitterly criticized NATO's move. As the United States declared shortly before the exercises that it would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, there is growing worry over an intensifying arms race between the two powers. The latest development has also raised questions over whether a new Cold War could start.
Members of the media who came to accept NATO's Oct. 30 invitation to observe the alliance's Trident Juncture drills were met with scenes of martial might. With temperatures hovering around 2 degrees Celsius, across a dusty cove along the western coast of the Scandinavian Peninsula roved a tank unit. U.S. AH-64 Apache attack helicopters hovered, generating a tremendous din. Dutch and French navy amphibious craft lurked off the peninsula.
The drill simulated a collective NATO response to an invasion of northern Norway by an unnamed enemy. Under the scenario, NATO deploys a multinational rapid reaction force to extensive areas of the country, the Northwestern Atlantic and the Baltic Sea and restores Norway's sovereignty.
Despite going unnamed, it is obvious that NATO's imaginary enemy here is Russia. Some 50,000 troops from 31 countries -- all the 29 NATO members plus Sweden and Finland -- participated in the drill. A total of 250 combat aircraft, 65 warships and 10,000 vehicles including tanks were mobilized for the exercise.
NATO has become increasingly wary of Russia following the Ukraine crisis, and is prioritizing enhancing its deterrent capability in Central and Eastern Europe. NATO selected Northern Europe as the site for the drill because it is particularly concerned about Moscow's military buildup in the Arctic, which includes a new base and upgraded forces.
In response to the move, Moscow notified NATO that Russian forces would conduct a missile drill in international waters off Norway during Trident Juncture.
When asked at a news conference how the exercise differed from its Cold War counterparts, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg denied that the latest move represents a revival of the Cold War. However, he added, "What we see today is a more unpredictable situation, where it's harder to foresee exactly what will happen and there is less agreement on what are the rules of the game."
(Japanese original by Kosuke Hatta, Brussels Bureau)