Amid increasing tension with Russia, the 30 NATO member countries started large-scale exercises with thousands of troops and dozens of planes and ships across the Atlantic Ocean and through Europe, with an emphasis on the area of the Black Sea facing Russia.
For the first time, the NATO command announced that one of the objectives of the exercises is to protect the large undersea cable network that carries enormous amounts of communications and data between the U.S. and Europe. The Military Times website wrote that NATO says Russia is mapping the cable network "and might have darker intentions."
The exercises are intended to simulate the response of dozens of NATO countries, and each country separately, to an attack. They will test the ability to quickly deploy forces from America to Europe, and to keep supply lines open. This week, 9,000 troops from 20 countries are participating in the exercises, with a focus on the area of the Black Sea facing Russian forces that are frequently accused of blocking freedom of navigation in the area.
Ahead of the maneuvers, secretary-general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, said "NATO is ready," adding that "this exercise sends a message about our ability to transport a large number of troops, equipment across the Atlantic, across Europe." He spoke with a reporter from AP on the deck of the British Royal Navy's aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is carrying F-35 stealth fighters that are participating in the maneuvers.