It said a carrier strike group led by warship HMS Queen Elizabeth would lead the UK’s contribution to Nato’s most ambitious drill since the Cold War, Exercise Steadfast Defender, which is planned for next year...reports Asian Lite News
Britain has pledged to send 20,000 troops to northern Europe next year in a drive to keep Russia at bay in the Baltic Sea and prevent sabotage of a “spaghetti” of undersea cables.Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made the commitment at a summit in Sweden of the 10-nation Joint Expeditionary Force, a group of Baltic and North Sea militaries that is stepping up drills to deter Russia.Ukraine was invited on Friday to observe the group’s exercises as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged its leaders to focus on hybrid threats from Russia this winter.The summit on the island of Gotland took place after a mysterious leak on a pipeline from Finland to Estonia that led to suggestions of sabotage.The Nord Stream gas pipelines were similarly damaged last year in a still-unexplained incident under the Baltic, raising alarms about the safety of key infrastructure.“There is a spaghetti of cables, pipelines and infrastructure on the seabed that is absolutely fundamental for data traffic … and everything that is controlled digitally,” said Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.He said the 10 countries – the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Iceland and the Netherlands – had assigned their defence ministers to discuss how to protect undersea infrastructure.Downing Street said the UK would send 20,000 troops, eight warships and a fleet of helicopters for exercises, air policing and cold weather training in the region as part of a drive to “help detect, deter and defuse traditional and hybrid threats”.It said a carrier strike group led by warship HMS Queen Elizabeth would lead the UK’s contribution to Nato’s most ambitious drill since the Cold War, Exercise Steadfast Defender, which is planned for next year.
“Northern Europe is vital to our national security, which is why it’s more important than ever that we work with our Joint Expeditionary Force neighbours to protect our backyard and deter damaging hybrid threats,” Mr Sunak said. He said the conflict between Israel and Hamas showed “yet again that our security cannot be taken for granted … it is vital that we stand united against those with malign intent”.The Joint Expeditionary Force is planning an exercise of its own called Joint Protector next year.
The group’s leaders said it “must be ready to respond” in scenarios that could fall below the threshold of Nato’s Article 5 mutual defence guarantee.What is known as hybrid warfare includes acts of sabotage, cyber attacks and economic threats that have all been linked to Russia. Moscow’s forces repeatedly pounded Ukraine’s energy grid in a drone and missile barrage last winter.“Before winter comes, we should all focus firstly on hybrid terrorist threats from Russia,” Mr Zelenskyy told the summit by video link.“We saw last year what the Kremlin was betting on, namely strikes on the energy infrastructure to destroy the basis of modern life. We predict that this winter Russia will try to repeat its terror tactics, only on a larger scale.”Sweden is still waiting for Turkey and Hungary to approve its Nato membership application, more than a year after it asked to join. It signed a separate declaration with the UK on Friday committing to a “regular drumbeat” of exercises with its military partners and to use the JEF as an “additional tier of security” for northern Europe.Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, whose country joined Nato in April, said Sweden should join “as soon as possible” but said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was “the only one who has, in his head, the solution”.