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NATO 'Committed To Defense, Deterrence,' U.S Admiral Says

U.S. Admiral James Foggo (file photo)

BRUSSELS -- NATO's massive exercise involving some 40,000 troops due to take place in Norway later this year will show the world that the Western military alliance is "relevant, united, and ready to defend itself," one of its top military officials has said.

"We are not looking for a fight but are committed to defense and deterrence," U.S. Admiral James Foggo, the commander of NATO's Joint Force Command, said at a press conference in Brussels on June 11, as Moscow's relations with the West have plummeted in recent years over Russia's military intervention in Ukraine and Syria, and other matters.

"That's what this exercise is all about: training to defend, and providing a deterrent effect, ready to respond to any threat from any direction at any time," he added.

All 29 NATO allies, as well as Finland and Sweden, will participate in Trident Juncture 18, NATO's biggest exercise in recent years, which will take place in and around Norway in October-November.

The drills, in which NATO forces will respond to a simulated violation of Norway's sovereignty, will include some 70 ships and 130 aircraft, according to the security alliance. It will also include a command-post exercise, mostly in Italy.

The exercise will strengthen "our common capability to handle a crisis, should it ever come to that," Vice Admiral Olsen, the military representative of Norway to the NATO Military Committee, told the journalists in Brussels.

NATO says all member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will be able to send observers to the exercise, including Russia, and the alliance also briefed Moscow about the maneuvers during a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council last week.

Transparency Criticism

According to RFE/RL sources, no Russian objections were raised about Trident Juncture 18 exercise at the gathering.

Foggo said the Brussels briefing showed NATO's commitment to the transparency of its military activities. He also reiterated criticism of Moscow's lack of transparency over the Zapad military exercise that Russia held with Belarus in September 2017.

"Where is the transparency on the other side, from Moscow? During Zapad did we get this kind of press conference, do you see this kind of openness from the Russians? Are snap exercises something that build confidence in the West when the Russians do a large 50,000 person snap exercise and what are the motives behind that?" Foggo asked.

Zapad 2017 brought thousands of troops close to NATO's eastern members and caused concerns about Moscow's intentions given its military interference in Ukraine.

NATO suspended practical cooperation with Moscow in 2014 in response to Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and its support for separatists in the eastern part of the country in a conflict that has killed more than 10,300 people.

For two years, ambassadors and ministers did not meet, until the NATO-Russia Council was revived in 2016.