NATO Military Drills Start in Norway Less Than 200 Miles From Russia Border

Nearly 30,000 NATO troops have begun previously planned military drills in Norway as tensions between Russia and the West increase over the former's assault on Ukraine.

The military exercise was organized before Russia invaded Ukraine. The purpose of the drill is to see how Norway would manage its reinforcements in line with Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which says an attack against one alliance member is considered an attack against all of them.

More than two weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched what he called a "special military operation" against Ukraine, and his invading forces are drawing closer to the capital city of Kyiv while encountering fierce resistance across the country. Meanwhile, the West fears that Putin's ultimate military goal may extend beyond Ukraine and include other parts of Eastern Europe, which could trigger a military response under NATO's Article 5, according to Politico.

The "Cold Response" drills are being held less than 200 miles from Norway's border with Russia, and while they were announced before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, this year's exercises now have greater importance.

"This exercise is extremely important for the security of Norway and its allies. We will practice an allied reinforcement of Norway," Norwegian Defense Minister Odd Roger Enoksen told Agence France-Presse. "It is not being held because of the Russian authorities' attack on Ukraine, but given the backdrop there is a heightened significance."

The event is held every two years, from March to April, and was announced eight months ago. This year's exercises, which started Monday, include land, sea and air drills involving at least 30,000 troops from over 27 nations. Approximately 220 aircraft and more than 50 vessels are involved in the drills.

Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said 200 U.S. military vehicles, attack and assault support aircraft, as well as other equipment, were shipped over in January from a base in North Carolina in preparation for the exercises, which 3,000 Marines are participating in.

Meanwhile, Baltic state leaders are asking NATO to permanently consider deploying troops to their countries, instead of on a rotational basis, over fears that Russian forces may enter other countries if they are not stopped in Ukraine.

Colonel Andrus Merilo, who is head of Estonia's first infantry brigade, said that Ukraine is only "an intermediate goal" for Russia and that NATO should be prepared for Russia to move further into Europe, according to Politico. Estonia is one of the three Baltic states, along with Latvia and Lithuania.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said NATO is considering the possibility of permanently deploying troops in the Baltic states but noted that thousands of U.S. troops have already been deployed in recent weeks. An additional 400 military personnel will arrive in Lithuania in the coming days.

Update 3/14/22, 12:26 p.m. ET: This story was updated with additional information and background.

NATO Troops
Nearly 30,000 NATO troops have begun previously planned military drills in Norway. Above, a French soldier participates in a drill as part of NATO's "enhanced forward presence" deployment in Poland and the Baltic nations on February 5 in Rakvere, Estonia. Alain Jocard/ AFP/Getty Images