15:53 GMT26 September 2020
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    With some 50,000 US and NATO troops gearing up for this week's opening of the Trident Juncture 18 joint military exercises, concerns about the massive training operation's true objective are starting to bubble up to the surface.

    The exercises are expected to include the participation of 29 NATO allies in addition to non-members Finland and Sweden. The month-long exercises will involve servicemembers undergoing air, land and sea courses.

    The tens of thousands of troops will be aided by some 150 aircraft, 65 sea vessels and thousands of military vehicles, making this year's Trident Juncture the largest NATO exercise since 2002, according to US defense site Military.com.

    Although the exercise's stated objective is to focus on combat readiness and the joint operability of NATO members to carry out a unified response to future security threats, reports have begun to suggest that Trident Juncture 18 has a lot more to do with sending a certain message to Russia.

    US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has, for his part, shot down the claims. He previously told reporters at NATO's headquarters earlier this month that "it would be a mischaracterization to put [Trident Juncture] in any kind of offensive or destabilizing sort of context."

    Jim Jatras, political analyst and former adviser to US Senate Republicans, told Sputnik on Tuesday that any and all NATO exercises and deployments are of course signals to Moscow.

    "Of course these exercises are meant to send a message to Russia," Jatras said. "I would put this in the same category as the kinds of provocations we see in the Baltic and Black Sea to challenge the Russians to see if they will come out and meet ships and planes right on their territorial waters."

    "Now, these exercises are not close to Russia, but it is interesting that when Russia holds maneuvers of this magnitude on its own territory, Western media is full of all sorts of stuff about ‘look how provocative the Russians are being,' but evidently they're not supposed to feel provoked by these kinds of exercises that are clearly directed against them," he added.

    The Dutch marine vessel Hr. Ms. Johan de Witt is loaded with vehicles and goods in Den Helder on October 15, 2018. The amphibious transport ship will participate in the NATO exercise Trident Juncture in Norway.
    © AFP 2020 / Robin van Lonkhuijsen / ANP

    What's even more alarming is the matter of Sweden and Finland joining in on the exercises, according to Jatras. "This is clearly directed toward the Arctic theater, toward Russia… This is really a full spectrum confrontation against Russia that also coincides with nonstop demonization in the Western media," he said.

    US defense analyst Ivan Eland also told Sputnik over email that the exercises are intended as a response to a litany of Russian actions that have offended the West.

    In Eland's view, the Trident exercises signal the onslaught of harsher US policies that will soon be directed toward Russia and China, the latter of which has already seen more confrontational policies in the US' freedom of navigation travels within the South China Sea and the trade war between Washington and Beijing.

    "A new Cold War is possible, especially with Russia, because the US has fewer commercial relations with it than with China," Eland predicts.

    The Trident exercises, which will mainly take place in Norway, are expected to begin on Thursday.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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