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Operation Anaconda 2016: the biggest NATO exercise in Central Europe

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Poland – 24 countries sent troops for this huge 10-day long NATO exercise taking place in Poland and Lithuania. While tension rises more and more between the West and Russia, this massive exercise of 31,000 troops, one month before the NATO summit in Warsaw, is seen as reassuring for some and as a ridiculous threat by Russians.

31,000 men – 14,000 US soldiers -, 3,000 vehicles, 105 aircraft and 12 Navy ships. That is the impressive amount of troops and means involved in this year’s unusual military coordination exercise. The exercise is part of efforts by the USA to show interest in central and eastern European countries, as Baltic countries and Poland especially are concerned by Russian activity in Ukraine and in the Baltic Sea. The exercise “confirmed that we can count on our friends who are capable of flying over the Atlantic to be here with us in a matter of hours,” said Polish Gen. Miroslaw Rozanski, deputy commander of the exercise. “We can look into the future with calm. We have good allies and good partners.”

But this exercise is of course more than a simple military drill. It is also about sending a message to Russia ; it is a demonstration of strength aiming to show Russia that she is facing a potential enemy which is strong and capable to intervene anywhere in Central and Eastern Europe. But also invade or at least cut off the Kaliningrad’s oblast.

On June 10, NATO troops will cross the Vistula River and enter Lithuania. By this move, NATO shows to Russia that her exclave is potentially threatened is case of higher tensions. For some, it is an answer to the Russian annexion of Crimea in 2014. But for the Russian authorities, it is absurd to fear an invasion of Poland and these maneuvers are “not contribute to the atmosphere of trust and safety on the continent”, said Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary. Russia considers NATO troops’ presence close to her border as a security threat.

In reaction, Russia started the building of a new military base in the South-West of the country, at Klintzy, near the Ukrainian border.