UK to Deploy Largest Contingent of Troops in Decades for NATO Exercises

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Britain announced on Monday that it will deploy 20,000 armed forces personnel to participate in one of NATO’s largest exercises since the Cold War. Defence Secretary Grant Shapps described this deployment as the UK’s largest to NATO in four decades. The purpose of the deployment is to provide vital reassurance regarding the increasing threats faced by the Western-led alliance, particularly from Russian President Vladimir Putin following his invasion of Ukraine.

The British personnel, consisting of members from the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, and Army, will be stationed across Europe and other locations for the military alliance’s Exercise Steadfast Defender. This exercise will involve personnel from 31 other member countries and Sweden, which is a candidate for joining NATO.

During his speech in London, Shapps emphasized the challenges faced by NATO due to the rising dangers to the international rules-based order. He stated that the UK is fully committed to NATO’s mission and will send approximately 20,000 personnel to lead one of the alliance’s largest deployments since the end of the Cold War.

The UK contingent will include fighter jets, surveillance aircraft, advanced warships, submarines, and a range of army capabilities, including special operations forces. Additionally, a Carrier Strike Group, comprising an aircraft carrier, F-35B fighter jets, and helicopters, will be deployed to the exercises in the North Atlantic, Norwegian Sea, and Baltic Sea.

Furthermore, approximately 16,000 soldiers will be deployed to eastern Europe from next month to June, equipped with tanks, artillery, helicopters, and parachutes.

Shapps used his speech to highlight the end of the post-Cold War “peace dividend” and the need for Western allies to adopt a hard-headed approach in the face of adversaries such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. He stated that NATO’s adversaries are increasingly interconnected, requiring a strong response from Western allies.

Regarding recent UK-US strikes against Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen, Shapps clarified that these strikes were intended as a single action. When asked about the possibility of further military action, he stated that he could not predict the future.

Shapps underscored the UK’s determination not to tolerate the closure of major waterways, such as the Red Sea, to international shipping on a permanent basis.