The IDF is participating for the first time in the US-led North Atlantic Alliance’s (NATO) eighth annual Eastern European exercise, Saber Strike 2018, which began on Sunday. Nineteen countries participate in the maneuvers, with about 18,000 soldiers spread around Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
The Saber Strike maneuvers, which will be concluded June 15, follow an overt threat by the Polish government against its Russian neighbor—which is already paranoid about the NATO presence so nearby. Poland has announced it might invite a permanent contingency of US troops on its soil, and the Polish Defense Ministry has offered to pay upwards of $2 billion a year to help cover the cost of hosting a US tank unit in Poland.
Needless to say, the Russians were not amused and issued a statement suggesting such a deployment “will not benefit in any way the security and stability on the continent.”
Moscow has protested US plans to deploy Patriot missile systems in Poland and Romania, which the Russians say would violate a 1987 arms treaty. Also, when the Patriots aren’t busy intercepting incoming missiles, they could be made to shoot missiles at Russia.
On the other hand, in February, Lithuania accused Russia of permanently deploying nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missiles at its border.
This year’s NATO has been divided into two parts, with the IDF engaged in the more minor one: dozens of fighters from the Paratroopers Brigade practicing, among other things, fighting under air strikes by foreign forces, and crossing bridges and rivers.
On Saturday, NATO’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg told Der Spiegel that the alliance won’t come to Israel’s defense should it be attacked by Iran. Stoltenberg, a Norwegian, said Israel is NATO’s partner, but not a member, and that alliance’s “security guarantee” does not apply, even should the Mullahs shoot ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads at Tel Aviv.
So now we know everything.