Last year’s DEFENDER-Europe exercises, to have been the third-largest U.S. and NATO war games since the end of the Cold War, were to include some 20,000 troops from 18 NATO member and partner states, but were curtailed because of COVID-10 lockdown and other restrictions.
This year’s will include 31,000 troops from 27 nations, an increase of over 50% in terms of troops and 50% regarding nations involved. This would seem to make the exercise the biggest since the Cold War and that in an era when warfare is far less labor intensive than in the past and under continued international coronavirus lockdown conditions.
The U.S. Army press release on the event mentions “nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in a dozen countries.”
The commanding general of United States Army Europe and Africa, General Christopher Cavoli, particularly emphasized building warfighting interoperability with “allies and partners in the strategically important Balkans and Black Sea region.”
In addition to ground forces, this year’s DEFENDER-Europe will include the participation of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force and “will utilize key ground and maritime routes bridging Europe, Asia and Africa.” The exercise will also employ “new or high-end capabilities including air and missile defense assets.”
The war games will also feature airborne operations (codenamed Swift Response) in Estonia, Bulgaria and Romania with the participation of 7,000 troops from eleven nations.
And over 5,000 troops from eight nations deployed at 31 training areas in twelve countries will conduct live-fire training along with a Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore operation (Immediate Response).
Saber Guardian, which will consist of over 13,000 soldiers from nineteen countries, will be comprised of “live fire and air and missile defense operations.”
A command post exercise with 2,000 military personnel designed to test commanding “multinational land forces in a joint and combined training environment while maintaining real-world operations across 104 countries on two continents” will also be held.
DEFENDER-Europe 2021 will “share coordinated mission command, mutual sustainment and a mission partner environment” with the annual African Lion exercise in Morocco with 5,000 troops from 24 nations and Steadfast Defender, “a new series of NATO exercises focused on the transatlantic reinforcement of Europe and [which] demonstrates NATO’s ability to respond rapidly to the full spectrum of threats.”
Lastly, in language that might have appeared stark even during the depth of the Cold War, the Pentagon announces:
“DEFENDER-Europe 21 is evidence of the ironclad U.S. commitment to NATO, is a prime example of our collective capabilities, and demonstrates that NATO allies and partners stand stronger together.”
For war. For war against the only adversary the Pentagon and NATO have identified on the European continent.