Over the past few weeks, NATO has planned and begun the execution of military exercises and routines across Europe to prepare for worst-case scenarios regarding Russian aggression against Ukraine. While drills are regularly scheduled, Russian threats and the recent inclusion of Finland and Sweden heighten the relevance of these drills and bring them to the forefront of geopolitical speculation. The BBC has reported that a specific drill, named “Hedgehog,” has been launched in Estonia for over two weeks.
While preparation for military intervention in Ukraine is vital, it nonetheless signifies a risk of catalyzing increased conflict and moving further from a peaceful settlement. This has been demonstrated by Russia’s vow to take countermeasures by launching twelve military units and divisions in the West, partially due to their nearby training and partially due to the expansion of the Allies. The launch of additional military units will be accompanied by an increase in military equipment and weapons.
Russia’s long-withstanding belief that NATO is a viable security threat, based on its development as a defense against Soviet aggression, magnifies the relevance of widespread NATO drills, specifically given the recent expansion of NATO allies to include Finland and Sweden, who formally submitted their applications on the 18th of May. The NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, referenced NATO involvement in the Baltic region, saying, “NATO is already vigilant in the Baltic Sea region, and NATO and Allies’ forces will continue to adapt as necessary.” This enlargement comes as a critical point as it has been widely understood that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was done with the intention of undermining the strength of international security organizations such as NATO.
The “Hedgehog” drill involves the newly joined nations, including more than15,000 troops, only 64 kilometers from the nearest Russian military base. The United States has joined these drills as of the 20th of May 2022, and it has been reported that the United Kingdom is preparing to send hundreds of troops to Estonia to join these drills. The Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has publicly declared that the increase in intensified training exercises is a recent escalation of multiple threats made by NATO members in recent years. The notable involvement of the United States and the United Kingdom in the NATO drills in Estonia demonstrates the severity of the military conflict in Ukraine and the anomaly that is NATO’s vital role in the conflict. The American Navy is highly involved in these Estonian exercises, with Marines reporting that they will be practicing a multi-day force-on-force exercise, preparing for defense against artillery strike attacks on civilian areas in eastern Ukraine.
The future implications of the Hedgehog drill involving Sweden and Finland could potentially involve an escalation of Russian aggression both against Ukraine and other NATO allies. While preparation is necessary, it continues to move Russian and NATO forces further from a peaceful settlement, yet it may be the only way to adequately protect the Ukrainian people, bearing the front of Russian violence and aggression.
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