The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on Monday began its largest military exercise in more than a decade, deploying over 36,000 troops from more than 30 countries to the central Mediterranean in a massive show of force that analysts say revives Cold War posturing towards Russia.
According to NATO, the "Trident Juncture" war games will take place by land, air, and sea over the next three weeks "across Italy, Spain and Portugal." In addition to NATO countries, seven non-member states will participate, including Ukraine. Curiously, numerous aid agencies will also take part, including the International Red Cross.
"We are very concerned about the Russian military build-up," NATO's Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow told reporters in southern Italy on Monday. "The increasing concentration of forces in Kaliningrad, the Black Sea and now in the eastern Mediterranean does pose some additional challenges."
"It seems a real anachronism for an exercise of this magnitude so long after the end of the Cold War," Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco, told Common Dreams. "Frankly it is a huge waste of taxpayer money and resources, not to mention the carbon footprint."
"I would guess the main motivation is to keep Pentagon spending high," Zunes added.
Studies indicate that these costly war games can bring real military escalation.
A report released in August by the London-based think tank European Leadership Network (ELN) argued that war games are feeding a "climate of mistrust" between western nations and Russia, causing relations to "deteriorate considerably."
"We do not suggest that the leadership of either side has made a decision to go to war or that a military conflict between the two is inevitable," the report stated, "but that the changed profile of exercises is a fact and it does play a role in sustaining the current climate of tensions in Europe."