The Steadfast Defender 2024 military exercise, which began on January 24 and runs until May 31, involved all NATO members and Sweden, a former permanent neutral but now awaiting approval for membership. The ground, naval and air assets involved include more than 50 ships, including aircraft carriers and destroyers, more than 80 fighter jets, helicopters and drones, and at least 1,100 combat vehicles, including 133 tanks and 533 infantry fighting vehicles.
With such a large scale and such a long duration, it is hard not to speculate NATO's hidden intentions in this exercise. According to NATO, the purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate its ability to strengthen European defense by rapidly mobilizing and deploying troops across the Atlantic from North America. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Glushko said that NATO's Steadfast Defender 2024 military exercise marked an "irrevocable return" of the alliance to Cold War schemes.
From its inception, NATO was seen by the United States as a means of containing the Soviet Union, and it sought opportunities to deploy massive conventional and nuclear forces in Europe, constantly holding military exercises to send tough signals. By the early 1990s, the Soviet Union had collapsed and the Cold War was over. But NATO did not perish and continued to maintain its vitality through expansion and transformation. It had launched six rounds of eastward enlargement against Russia, bringing in many former Soviet Bloc countries and permanently neutral countries in northern Europe.
In its constant eastward expansion, NATO's mission orientation and scope of action have long exceeded the general needs of its own security defense. It has virtually violated the commitment in the 1995 Study on NATO Enlargement that the admission of new members would not be targeted at Russia, which stated that "a stronger NATO-Russia relationship should form another cornerstone of a new, inclusive and comprehensive security architecture in Europe". Moreover, regardless of the potential strategic mistrust and security dilemma between Russia and Europe, it is also directly implicated in the turbulence and even conflict in Eastern Europe. The rationality of NATO's eastward expansion and even its very existence have always been questioned, especially since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which has shown it to be a tool for the United States to promote great power competition and a zero-sum game. Far from being a multilateral organization that promotes dialogue and cooperation, NATO is an exclusive, unilateral organization that provokes antagonism and is a war machine that creates turmoil.
As an instrument, NATO follows the lead of the United States in strategy and action. In the Fourth Strategic Concept, published in June 2022, NATO showed strong outward-looking and offensive characteristics. It positioned Russia as the "most significant and immediate threat" and China as a "systemic challenge", while actively coordinating with the US in its competitive strategies against China. Under the pretext of the so-called "China threat", which does not exist, it has insisted on extending its military tentacles into the Asia-Pacific region, provoking bloc confrontation in the region and threatening regional security.
For NATO, the more countries it involves, the more it can muddle the current situation and the greater the possibility of its opportunistic behavior. However, most Asia-Pacific countries have a clear perception of NATO's attempt to further cross-regional boundaries and incite bloc confrontation in the Asia-Pacific. President of East Timor José Ramos-Horta recently said that in any case, he did not think China was a regional or international threat. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg warned that China was "everywhere", which he found ridiculous.
Since its inception, NATO has been waging war and wreaking havoc wherever it goes. Amidst the conspicuous staging of the Steadfast Defender 2024 military exercise, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is being nominated by Norwegian politicians to compete for the 2024 Nobel Peace Prize.