NATO needs exercises like Zapad

John R. Deni for Carnegie Europe:

One area where the West has struggled though is in mounting the kind of capability display similar to Zapad 2017. That is, deploying large-scale combat power from across the continent and across the Atlantic for the purposes of conducting corps-level training, maneuvers, and live fire, all to achieve tactical, operational, and strategic objectives. Conducting such a large-scale training event periodically is necessary, not simply because the alliance has seen its ability to train and fight at the corps level atrophy, but also because of the unmistakable deterrent message to Moscow.

During NATO’s Wales Summit in 2014, the alliance agreed to periodically conduct a so-called high-visibility exercise starting in 2015. That training event — Trident Juncture 2015 — occurred in October and November 2015, and was hosted by Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Next year, the 2018 iteration will be hosted by Norway. This was a step in the right direction, but it’s insufficient for several reasons.

According to Deni, Trident Juncture is too small, infrequent, and doesn’t reflect the true challenges that a real event would. To be a deterrent the exercise needs to send a clear message that NATO is prepared. The whole piece is well worth reading.

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