Britain faces down Putin with largest troop deployment since Cold War in European exercise

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced today, May 11, the planned exercises, which make up one of the largest deployments since the Cold War. These exercises will see tanks, tracked artillery guns and armoured fighting vehicles deployed in Europe. Many of the countries to which troops are being deployed are those with concerns about a possible invasion from Russia, with many troops being sent to the Baltic states who have long expressed fears of Russian aggression.

The MoD stated the exercises aim to “demonstrate British forces’ ability to integrate with NATO allies and preserve peace across the continent”.

It added: “NATO is a defensive alliance, designed to preserve peace, prevent conflict and protect its people; these exercises are part of ensuring the alliance is prepared to respond to any threat from any direction.”

Part of the new exercises is Exercise Arrow, which started earlier this month with British Army troops deployed to Finland as part of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF).

Sky News’ Europe correspondent Adam Parsons reports Finland, which shares a 810-mile border with Russia, has been preparing for a possible invasion for decades, including converting leisure centres and other community facilities in Helsinki into bomb shelters.

The country is also reportedly considering joining NATO. Finland’s former PM Alexander Stubb, told AL Jazeera: “I think the decision on Finnish NATO membership was taken on February 24, at five o’clock in the morning, when Putin attacked Ukraine.

“The basic line of thought is that if Putin can slaughter his brothers, sisters and cousins in Ukraine, he can do that in Finland and Sweden, as well.”

Finland also report experiencing cyberattacks from the Kremlin, with Finnish PM Sanna Marin saying they needed to be prepared for “all kinds of actions from Russia”.

Exercise Arrow has seen British Challenger 2 tanks working with Finnish soldiers – with more than 3,000 allied troops also taking part.

Meanwhile, troops from the Royal Welsh Battlegroup and the Royal Tank Regiment will be deployed on the Estonia-Latvia border alongside 18,000 NATO troops as part of Exercise Hedgehog.

The exercise includes French and Danish forces, who are part of the British-led NATO battlegroup permanently deployed to Estonia as part of an ongoing operation, codenamed Op CABRIT.

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Estonian Foreign Affairs Minister Eva-Maria Liimets has said that Russia is not a direct threat at the moment, but said her nation’s defence and its future as a liberal democracy depend on the clear support of its allies.

Estonia has also banned 4 Russian TV stations and a Belarusian outlet to try and stem the flow of Kremlin propaganda in the country.

Rihards Kols, the chair of the foreign affairs committee in the Latvian Parliament, has warned that the Baltic states need more support from their allies to dissuade Putin from launching further invasions.

Mr Kols said of a previous deployment of thousands of NATO troops across the Baltic states: “We welcome these reinforcements, but it’s not enough — absolutely not enough.”

In further support from Britain to the Baltic States, the MoD also reported they will deploy a major headquarters to the Baltic region as part of the JEF.

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The UK is the framework nation for the JEF a coalition designed to respond rapidly to crises in the High North, North Atlantic, Baltic Sea region and further afield.

Exiled Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky said the next step in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine might be the invasion of the Baltic countries.

He said: “We must understand that, in his head, Putin is at war not with Ukraine.

“He’s at war with the United States and NATO. He said this more than once.”

Furthermore last year former Russian General Staff and air force officer Colonel Igor Korotchenko explained how Russia could invade the Baltic states on Russian TV.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in the 1990s and are now NATO members.