As NATO gears up for the Steadfast Defender 2024 exercises, Russia has been engaged in an information campaign seeking to cast NATO's actions as provocative, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its latest update on Jan. 19.
NATO's Steadfast Defender 2024 exercises are commencing next week and are scheduled to run until May 2024. General Chris Cavoli, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, revealed that the exercises involve a substantial force, with 90,000 personnel from all 31 NATO member states and Sweden participating.
The exercises will reportedly include over 50 ships; over 80 fighter jets, helicopters, and drones; and at least 1,100 combat vehicles, including 133 tanks and 533 infantry fighting vehicles.
The Russian Foreign Ministry contends that NATO's exercises are increasingly aggressive and provocatively conducted near Russia's borders, characterizing them as a "demonstration of force" on Russia's doorstep. The Kremlin's rhetoric and behavior have recently escalated, with President Vladimir Putin identifying the West as Russia's "enemy" and implying that Russia's actions in Ukraine are aimed at defeating the West.
"The Russian information operation aimed at painting defensive NATO actions in response to real Russian aggression on NATO’s eastern flank as provocative seeks to deflect from recent aggressive Russian rhetoric and behavior towards NATO," the ISW said.
ISW assesses that Putin invaded Ukraine in 2022 not to defend Russia against a nonexistent threat from NATO but rather "to weaken and ultimately destroy NATO – a goal he still pursues."