NATO’s Upcoming “Steadfast Defender”: The Largest Military Exercise Since the Cold War


Prompted by events such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO is setting a new course focused on fortifying its war-fighting capabilities. Dubbed “Steadfast Defender,” this extensive military exercise aims to simulate the alliance’s response to Russian aggression against one of its member states.


Global Overview:

The exercise involves a coalition of 32 nations, including Sweden, whose NATO membership is still pending. It will occur across Germany, Poland, and the Baltic states in February and March, featuring between 500 to 700 air combat missions and employing over 50 naval ships.

Detailed Reports:

Steadfast Defender is designed to model potential maneuvers against an enemy coalition led by Russia, codenamed “Occasus” for this exercise. Notably, the exercise will incorporate real-world geographical data to generate realistic combat scenarios. This event is part of a new NATO training strategy, which includes two large-scale exercises per year, focusing on both traditional and non-traditional threats such as terrorism.


Key Highlights:

• Over 41,000 troops involved
• More than 50 naval vessels
• Between 500-700 air combat missions
• Real-world geographical data for realistic scenarios
• Participation of 32 nations

Strategies and Tactics:

The purpose of the exercise extends beyond mere preparation. It serves as a robust signal to Moscow, emphasizing NATO’s readiness to counter aggression. The drill will evaluate multiple combat scenarios, including rapid deployment of the new Allied Reaction Force, designed to respond swiftly to threats.




• Increased readiness of NATO forces
• Strengthened alliance cohesion


• Potential escalation of tensions with Russia
• Shift towards a more heavily militarized NATO


Future Outlook:

The Steadfast Defender exercise will likely set the template for future NATO drills aimed at war readiness. It aligns with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s commitment to augmenting high-readiness forces to well over 300,000 troops.


Steadfast Defender marks a significant pivot in NATO’s strategic objectives, reflecting the changing geopolitical landscape. It is a show of force intended not just for readiness but to serve as a deterrent against any form of aggression.


1.	Financial Times, “NATO to launch biggest military exercise since cold war,”2.	NATO Official Website, “Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s Statements,” 2022.

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