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NATO has confirmed that it has launched its regular nuclear deterrence drills in western Europe after tensions heightened with Russia over President Vladimir Putin’s veiled threats in the face of setbacks in Ukraine.
Africa Daily News, New York recalls that Monday, the 30-nation alliance has pointed out that the ‘routine, recurring training activity’ — which runs until October 30 — was planned before Moscow invaded Ukraine and is not linked to the current situation.
It will have to involve US B-52 long-range bombers, and up to 60 aircraft in total will take part in training flights over Belgium, the United Kingdom and the North Sea.
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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has rejected any calls to scrap the drill after Putin ratcheted up his nuclear rhetoric as his troops lose ground in Ukraine.
‘It would send a very wrong signal if we suddenly now cancelled a routine, long-time planned exercise because of the war in Ukraine,’ Stoltenberg said last week.
‘We need to understand that NATO’s firm, predictable behaviour, our military strength, is the best way to prevent escalation.’
NATO says it has seen no change in Russia’s nuclear posture despite the tougher language from the Kremlin.
‘But we remain vigilant,’ Stoltenberg added.
Putin had last week stated that he has no plans ‘for now’ to launch any sort of massive air raids such as those carried out this week, in which more than 100 long-range missiles were fired at targets across Ukraine.
Speaking on Friday at the end of a summit in Kazakhstan, President Putin said ‘We do not set ourselves the task of destroying Ukraine. No, of course not’.
He went on to add that the call-up of reservists would be finished in two weeks, promising an end to the divisive mobilisation that has seen hundreds of thousands of men summoned to fight in Ukraine and huge numbers fleeing the country.
Defending the mobilisation order, Putin told a news conference the front line was too long to defend solely with contract soldiers. He ordered the call-up to bolster the fight along a 1,100-km (684-mile) front line where Ukrainian counteroffensives have inflicted blows to Moscow’s military prestige.