UK To Send 20,000 Troops In Biggest Deployment To NATO Exercises In Decades

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London: In a significant move, Britain is set to dispatch 20,000 armed forces personnel to participate in one of NATO’s largest exercises since the Cold War, announced Defence Secretary Grant Shapps on Monday. Highlighting the escalating threats to the Western-led alliance, Shapps characterized this deployment as the UK’s most substantial contribution to NATO in four decades. The primary objective is to offer crucial reassurance in the face of the “menace” posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin following the invasion of Ukraine.

The personnel from the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, and Army will join forces with military counterparts from 31 other NATO member countries and Sweden, a candidate for NATO membership. Shapps, in a comprehensive speech in London, emphasized the growing challenges to the “international rules-based order” and underscored the need for a robust response.

“Today’s NATO is bigger than ever, but the challenges are bigger too,” said Shapps, adding that the UK is committing its “totality of air, land, and maritime assets to NATO.” As a demonstration of this commitment, Shapps announced the deployment of around 20,000 personnel, marking one of NATO’s most extensive mobilizations since the end of the Cold War.

The UK contingent will include fighter jets, surveillance aircraft, advanced warships, submarines, and a full range of army capabilities, including special operations forces. A Carrier Strike Group, featuring the flagship aircraft carrier and F-35B fighter jets, will participate in exercises across the North Atlantic, Norwegian Sea, and Baltic Sea.

In eastern Europe, approximately 16,000 soldiers will be deployed from next month to June, bringing with them tanks, artillery, helicopters, and parachutes.

Shapps used his speech to advocate for a shift from the post-Cold War “peace dividend” to a period of “hard-headed realism.” He emphasized the need for Western allies to confront adversaries such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, stressing the interconnectedness of NATO’s adversaries.

Referring to the joint UK-US strikes against Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen last week, Shapps stated that the strikes were a singular action. When asked about potential future military action, he remained non-committal, stating, “I can’t predict the future for you.” However, he emphasized the UK’s commitment to ensuring that major waterways, such as the Red Sea, remain open to international shipping and will not be permanently closed.

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