Bulgaria to participate in Nato’s Steadfast Defender exercise, largest in decades

Bulgaria is to participate in Nato’s Exercise Steadfast Defender 2024, the Alliance’s largest in decades, with about 90 000 forces from all 31 Allies and invitee Sweden.

This was confirmed on January 22 by Bulgaria’s Defence Minister Todor Tagarev.

Tagarev said that the scenario of the exercise envisages defensive actions in the northern part of Nato’s eastern flank. Some media reports have described the exercise as envisaging an attack by Russia on a Nato member states, which would trigger the Alliance’s Article 5 mutual defence provision.

“At the moment, the presence of foreign troops and the conduct of any active actions on Bulgarian territory are not foreseen,” Tagarev said.

“We are participating in (the exercise) with officers in the Nato headquarters, as well as with our headquarters, which will participate in the planning of computer-aided exercises,” he said.

In Steadfast Defender 2024, more than 50 vessels, including aircraft carriers and destroyers, as well as more than 80 fighter jets, helicopters and drones, and at least 1100 combat vehicles, including 133 tanks and 533 infantry fighting vehicles, will take part.

The aircraft will include F35s, FA18s, Harriers, F15s, helicopters and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles provided by Norway, Finland, the United States, the UK, Spain, Poland and Hungary.

The exercise will be held in several Nato member states, including Germany, Poland and the three Baltic states.

Nato has said of the exercise, which it is expected to begin soon: “It will demonstrate our transatlantic unity, strength, and ability to deploy forces rapidly, across thousands of kilometres, in any conditions”.

Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Christopher Cavoli told a briefing in 2023: “The Alliance will demonstrate its ability to reinforce the Euro-Atlantic area via trans-Atlantic movement of forces from North America.

“This reinforcement will occur during a simulated emerging conflict scenario against a near-peer adversary,” Cavoli said.

“Steadfast Defender 2024 will be a clear demonstration of our unity, strength, and determination to protect each other, our values and the rules-based international order.”

The previous Nato exercise on such a large scale was Reforger, held in 1988 and which included 125 000 forces.

(Photo: Nato)

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