NATO Launches Largest Military Drills Since End of Cold War

June 7, 2016 10:27 am Last Updated: June 8, 2016 4:17 pm

NATO has launched its first military drills in Poland—its largest since the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union dissolved more than 25 years ago.

Poland, along with its NATO partners, kicked off the two-week long Anaconda initiative, designed to check “the alliance’s ability to defend its eastern flank,” Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said Tuesday in Warsaw.

More than 31,000 NATO soldiers from 24 countries as well as soldiers from Ukraine will take part in the exercises. Around 14,000 U.S. troops will join in, according to the Telegraph.

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley described the American presence as one that “demonstrates that we are shoulder to shoulder with the Polish people.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, like Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent days, decried NATO’s maneuvers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on March 8, 2016. (Alexei Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on March 8, 2016. (Alexei Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images)

“I am convinced that every serious and honest politician is well aware that Russia will never invade any NATO member. We have no such plans,” he told reporters, according to RT.

He added that “there are no threats in this part of the world whatsoever, that would justify [NATO’s] build-up here.”

NATO’s decision to move its military infrastructure closer to the Russian border will be seen negatively by Moscow, Lavrov said.

“Here, Russia’s sovereign right to ensure its security will come into force, [making use] of methods adequate to [respond to] today’s challenges,” he told journalists.

The relationship between NATO and Russia has been icy after Moscow intervened in Ukraine in 2014. The U.S.-led alliance said it will hold formal talks with Russian officials before its July 8 summit.

Airborne forces from the U.S., Great Britain, and Poland conduct a multi-national jump on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, on June 7, 2016. The exercise, Swift Response-16, sets the stage in Poland for the multi-national land force training event Anakonda-16. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
Airborne forces from the U.S., Great Britain, and Poland conduct a multi-national jump on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, on June 7, 2016. The exercise, Swift Response-16, sets the stage in Poland for the multi-national land force training event Anakonda-16. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

In late May, Putin said that Romania and Poland would essentially be in Russia’s crosshairs because they’re hosting elements of a U.S. missile shield that Russia opposes.

“If yesterday in those areas of Romania people simply did not know what it means to be in the cross-hairs, then today we will be forced to carry out certain measures to ensure our security,” Putin said, reported Reuters.

“It will be the same case with Poland,” he said.

He didn’t specify what actions Russia would take, saying that “we won’t take any action until we see rockets in areas that neighbor us.”