BRUSSELS (HPD) — NATO began its long-scheduled nuclear exercises in northwestern Europe on Monday amid tensions over the war in Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use any means to defend the Russian territory.
Fourteen of NATO’s 30 member states were scheduled to take part in the exercises, which the military alliance said would include some 60 aircraft, including fighters and surveillance and refueling planes.
The bulk of the operation will take place at least 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) from the Russian border.
In the maneuvers, called Firm Noon, and which will last until October 30, there will also be US B-52 long-distance bombers. NATO did not allow any media access.
Training flights will be carried out over Belgium, which is hosting the operation this year, as well as over the North Sea and Great Britain. Fighters capable of carrying nuclear weapons are used in the exercises, but no real bombs are used.
The operation had been planned before Putin ordered the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine last February. Russia usually holds its own annual drills on the same dates, and NATO expects Moscow to exercise its nuclear forces sometime this month.