NATO begins nuclear drills amid war tensions with Russia

NATO began its long-planned annual nuclear exercises in northwestern Europe on Monday as tensions simmer over the war in Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use all means to defend Russian territory.

Fourteen of NATO’s 30 member countries were to take part in the drills, which the military alliance said would involve around 60 aircraft, including fighter jets and surveillance and refueling aircraft.

The bulk of the War Games will take place at least 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) from Russia’s borders.

Long-range American B-52 bombers will also take part in the maneuvers, dubbed Steadfast Noon, which will run until October 30. NATO does not allow any access to the media.

NATO said training flights will take place over Belgium, which hosts Steadfast Noon this year, as well as over the North Sea and the UK. The exercises involve fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but do not involve any actual bombs.

The drills were planned before Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine in February. Russia typically holds its own annual drills around the same time, and NATO expects Moscow to exercise its nuclear forces later this month.

Image: AP Photo/Olivier Matthys

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Christi C. Elwood