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NATO Holds Nuclear Deterrence Drills As Putin’s Losses Mount

NATO has started its regular nuclear deterrence exercises in Western Europe amid soaring tensions with Russia prompted by President Vladimir Putin's veiled nuclear threats in the face of Moscow's military setbacks in Ukraine.

"Exercise 'Steadfast Noon' involves 14 countries and up to 60 aircraft of various types, including fourth and fifth generation fighter jets, as well as surveillance and tanker aircraft," the 30 member alliance said in a statement, stressing that the "routine, recurring training activity" -- which runs until October 30 -- was planned before Russia invaded Ukraine and is not linked to the current situation.

The exercise will take part in training flights over Belgium, Britain, and the North Sea.

"NATO’s new Strategic Concept, adopted by Allied leaders at the Madrid Summit in June makes clear that 'the fundamental purpose of NATO’s nuclear capability is to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression,'” the statement said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has rejected any calls to cancel the exercise after Putin ratcheted up his nuclear rhetoric as Russian forces suffered reversals in Ukraine.

"It would send a very wrong signal if we suddenly now canceled 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 behavior, our military strength, is the best way to prevent escalation.

By RFE/RL

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