British troops are getting ready for one of their largest deployments in Europe since the cold war, the Defence Ministry (MoD) has said.
Thousands of UK soldiers are going to be sent to countries ranging from North Macedonia to Finland in the coming months to take part in joint drills with their counterparts from NATO, Finland, and Sweden.
It’s expected that the deployment is going to peak at some 8,000 troops between April and June. Dozens of British tanks and more than a hundred armored vehicles will also arrive in Europe this summer.
The plans of a large-scale deployment have been in the works for some time, but they were enhanced in the wake of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, the MoD said. The upcoming wargames are aimed to “showcase the scale and significance of the British Army’s contribution to the defence of Europe,” it added.
The drills are going to be “fundamental” to Britain’s contribution to European defence and the deterrence of Russia, Commander Field Army Lt Gen Ralph Wooddisse insisted.
“The scale of the deployment, coupled with the professionalism, training and agility of the British army, will deter aggression at a scale not seen in Europe this century,” he said.
The British soldiers have also been training together with US forces in Poland, the MoD said. It also announced that troops from the Queen’s Royal Hussars have just been deployed to Finland, which shares a 1,300-km-long border with Russia, to be embedded in an armored brigade.
Russia has always decried military drills and NATO buildup near its borders, saying that those moves increased tensions in the region and put Europe at risk of a major confrontation.
The UK has established itself as one of Ukraine’s main backers and arms suppliers amid the ongoing conflict with Russia. London has already sent anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile systems and is sending armored vehicles to Kiev, among other things. Ukrainian troops have also been receiving training from the British Army both on home soil and in the UK.
Arms deliveries to Ukraine by Britain, the US and some European nations continue, despite Moscow warning that they only prolong the conflict and hamper the prospects of peace.
In recent weeks, Moscow reported several successful strikes on arms depots in Ukraine where it said Western-supplied hardware and ammunition were stored.
Russia sent its troops to Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.