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Threat of war looms over Europe as Nato drill goes full-throttle

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Picture: Daniel Mihailescu / AFP / January 17, 2022 – A Nato ‘Boeing E-3A AWACS’ lands at a military airbase next to Henri Coanda international airport in Bucharest, Romania, in 2022. Nato sends surveillance aircraft to Romania to bolster its eastern flank and ‘monitor Russian military activity’, the alliance said on January 13, 2023. The Western military alliance has strengthened its presence in the region since Russia invaded Ukraine, which borders Romania, a Nato member. In February, 2024, as the second year of the Ukraine war draws to a close, a stalemate continues. On top of that, Steadfast Defender 2024, the biggest Nato drill since the end of the Cold War, involving more than 90,000 military personnel from 31 member countries and Sweden is under way in Europe, the writer says.

By Muhammed Shabeer

“Our government needs to take steps to bring about ceasefires in both Gaza and Ukraine, rather than escalating tension and preparing for more wars. Either of these wars could go nuclear and they have to be brought to a peaceful and just conclusion before the worst happens.” – Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

As the second year of the Ukraine war draws to a close, the stalemate continues. The much-vaunted Ukrainian counter-offensive has failed. However, Russia’s goals haven’t been met either as the US and other Nato member states continue to fill Ukraine’s coffers and restock its armoury.

On top of that, Nato’s ongoing military exercise Steadfast Defender 2024 is shaking the ground in Europe reaching Russia’s land border from Norway to its maritime border with Romania. The massive drill threatens a continent-wide escalation of the conflict.

According to reports, more than 90,000 troops, 50 warships, and several squadrons of fighter jets, from 31 member countries and Sweden, are participating in the Steadfast Defender 2024 which started on January 22, making it the largest Nato exercise in Europe since the end of the Cold War.

Under the banner of the Nato exercise, with its 12,000 Bundeswehr soldiers, Germany is also flexing its muscles in the “Quadriga 2024” manoeuvre to increase its military presence in Scandinavia region and Eastern Europe, including the Baltic. The Nato exercise simulating a defensive operation to protect a member nation from an enemy attack, specifically a Russian attack, is scheduled to last till May 31, 2024.

Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has warned that Nato’s Steadfast Defender drills are “provocative” and could potentially lead to “tragic consequences” for Europe.

Various anti-war groups across Europe have raised their concerns over the massive Nato drill, which is likely to escalate the ongoing war in Ukraine to a major region-wide war. That too at a time when the ongoing genocidal war on Palestinians waged by Israel, with the backing of the US and its European allies, is on the verge of a similar region-wide escalation in West Asia.

On February 6, Andreas Sorenson from the Communist Party of Sweden (SKP) told Peoples Dispatch that “The participation of Sweden in the exercise Steadfast Defender 2024 is a sign of the growing involvement of Sweden in the struggle of the Euro-Atlantic bloc against its competitors, primarily in China and Russia.

“We reject this development and maintain that Swedish soldiers have no business outside of the borders of Sweden. The path of the Swedish bourgeoisie is dangerous and puts the lives of Swedish working people, as well as the people subjected to Swedish military intervention, at risk. We struggle against this, just as we struggle against every imperialist alliance,” the SKP said.

Communists in Britain slammed the participation of 20,000 British military personnel in the Nato drill. The Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and Young Communist League (YCL-Britain) have also protested the new £2.5 billion (US$3.16 billion) aid package for Ukraine announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at a time when more British people are using food banks than ever before.

The Trussell Trust reported a total of 2,986,203 food bank users in 2023 – a figure that includes pensioners, NHS staff, and teachers. Including the latest instalment, the total amount of British aid to Ukraine has reached £12 billion (US$15.16 billion).

In January, Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), said, “Nato military planners are keen to wargame a conflict with Russia and this will no doubt involve planning for the potential use of nuclear weapons. The US deployment of F-35 warplanes and new B61-12 guided nuclear bombs to Europe is in full swing and Nato’s nuclear doctrine allows for first-strike attacks.

“With an escalating war in the Middle East and the continuing war in Ukraine, now is not the time for bellicose talk, and provocative exercises,” Hudson said. “Our government needs to take steps to bring about ceasefires in both Gaza and Ukraine, rather than escalating tension and preparing for more wars. Either of these wars could go nuclear and they have to be brought to a peaceful and just conclusion before the worst happens.”

German communist publication Unsere Zeit accused the traffic light coalition headed by Olaf Scholz makes German taxpayers the main sponsors of Nato’s proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. It has been reported that “while cuts are being made in education, health, and pensions, the German government is doubling the arms gifts to Kyiv to almost €8 billion [US$10.10 billion] this year”.

Muhammed Shabeer is an author at Peoples Dispatch.

This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch