Nato is to hold large-scale war games on Russia’s border a couple of weeks before the EU, at an event in Lithuania, plans to take away a former Soviet jewel: Ukraine. The military exercise, called Steadfast Jazz, will see the Western alliance put 6,000 of its soldiers, mariners and airmen through their paces in Poland and in the Baltic Sea region from 2 to 9 November.
One hundred Ukrainian troops will also join a “live-fire” part of the drill in Poland’s Drawsko Pomorskie training area. . . .
If things go well, it will sign a political association and free trade treaty with the European Union at a summit in Vilnius on 28 November, all but killing Russia’s plan to pull the former Soviet republic into a “Eurasian Union” instead. . . .
Russia’s actions on the Vilnius summit speak louder than words.
In August, it imposed a week-long customs blockade on Ukrainian road hauliers. In September, it imposed a month-long blockade on Lithuanian hauliers and banned imports of Lithuanian dairy. . . .
At a recent meeting in Yalta, Ukraine, an aide to Russian leader Vladimir Putin said it will impose trade tariffs that will force a Ukrainian state “default” if it signs the EU pact. . . .
Nick Witney, the former head of the EU’s security think tank, the European Defence Agency in Brussels, told this website that Steadfast Jazz is designed to “reassure” Nato’s new members and to “deter” any wild ideas in the Kremlin.
He said countries like Poland believe Russia still poses a threat in terms of conventional forces.
“They feel under political and psychological pressure from Russia. There has been a bit of sabre-rattling from the other side: Putin’s increasingly paranoid speeches, his new re-armament programme … So they need a bit of reassurance, they need Nato to adopt a robust body language,” he noted.
He added: “Deterrence is a psychological game … You need to deter people even from the most improbable events, and the way you do it is to show you are prepared to put resources and political will into maintaining your capabilities.”
He also said the details of Steadfast Jazz give a hint on who might come to Lithuania or Poland’s side if the “improbable” ever happened.
According to Shape, Nato’s command centre, Poland itself will do the main part of the “live-fire” exercise in Drawsko Pomorskie, with 1,500 troops.
Two of the tiny Baltic states will also play a relatively big role: Estonia is sending 200 souls and Lithuania 150.
Europe’s leading military powers, France and the UK, will each contribute 300 men. Italy is sending 250 and the Netherlands 200, but Germany is contributing just 75 and Spain is sending no one.
The US, by far Nato’s largest member, will send only 200 people. Turkey, another large Nato country, is sending no one.