Putin’s chilling next steps revealed after NATO war games near Russian border

Russia is mobilising troops in the north and west of the country in response to NATO war-games in Finland, Vladimir Putin’s henchman Sergei Shoigu has said.

The Russian defence secretary was speaking the day after the start of Nordic Response 2024, a large military exercise involving armed forces from Britain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, , France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United States.

Shoigu, Russia’s defence secretary, told top generals: “Against the background of a build-up of NATO’s military potential near the Russian borders, the expansion of the alliance through the accession of Finland and, in the future, Sweden, we have taken steps to strengthen the groupings of troops in the north-western and western strategic directions.”

NATO says the drills will involve more than 20,000 soldiers in Norway, Finland and Sweden and will focus on collective defence.

With over 4,000 Finnish soldiers taking part, the Norway-led Nordic Response 2024 represents the NATO newcomer’s largest ever participation in a foreign exercise, according to Finland’s military.

The Finnish Defence Forces said in a statement: “For the first time, Finland will participate as a NATO member nation in exercising collective defence of the alliance’s regions.”

The Swedish Armed Forces said about 4,500 personnel from its air force, army and navy would take part in the drill, which is being conducted in demanding Arctic winter conditions.

Finland, which shares a 830-mile (1,340 kilometre) border with Russia, joined NATO in April 2023 in a historic move following decades of military non-alignment.

With its bid now ratified by all NATO members, neighbouring Sweden is currently finalising formalities to enter the military alliance as its 32nd member – most likely in March.

Dramatic pictures showed tanks, troops and aircraft participating in the exercises today.

For years, the biannual NATO drill, which has been conducted in the Arctic extremes of northern Norway, was called “Cold Response.”

However, “thanks to the NATO expansion with Finland and eventually Sweden, we are now expanding the exercise to a Nordic Response,” the Norwegian Armed Forces said on its website. This year, the drill is hosted equally by Finland, Norway and Sweden.

The pan-Nordic drill is part of Steadfast Defender 24, NATO’s biggest exercises in decades, with up to 90,000 troops involved over several months of drills that are aimed at showing that the alliance can defend all of its territory up to its border with Russia.

The participating nations in the current exercise that runs through March 15 are Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United States.

Roughly half of the participating troops will drill on land. The rest will train at sea, with over 50 participating submarines, frigates, corvettes, aircraft carriers, and various amphibious vessels, and in the air with more than 100 fighter jets, transport aircraft, maritime surveillance aircraft and helicopters, according to the Norwegian military.

Brigadier Tron Strand from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, Commander of the Norwegian Air Operations Centre said: “We need to be able to fight back and stop anyone who tries to challenge our borders, values and democracy.

“With the current security situation in Europe, the exercise is extremely relevant and more important than ever before.”

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