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British soldiers are carrying out joint military exercises with eighteen other nations as part of a NATO readiness push amid the war in Ukraine. Armed forces from NATO member countries have gathered in North Macedonia to take part in war games and drills, including from France, Italy and the United States.
GMB’s Jonathan Swain said: “This comes with a big risk of escalating tensions even further with Russia.
“With the war in Ukraine, NATO though is keen to show that they are united.
“This is just an exercise of course, but they are prepared and keen to show they’re ready for the real thing.”
NATO describes itself as a defensive alliance, built around a treaty declaring that an attack on one member is an attack on all.
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The joint military exercises code-named Swift Response come as a warning to Russia’s Vladimir Putin amid concerns over Ukraine.
Finland said on Thursday it would apply to join NATO “without delay”, with Sweden expected to follow, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine looked set to bring about the very expansion of the Western military alliance that Vladimir Putin aimed to prevent.
The decision by the two Nordic countries to abandon the neutrality they maintained throughout the Cold War would be one of the biggest shifts in European security in decades. Moscow called Finland’s announcement a direct threat to Russia, and threatened retaliation, including unspecified “military-technical” measures.
It came even as Russia’s war in Ukraine was suffering another big setback, with Ukrainian forces driving Russian troops out of the region around the second largest city Kharkiv, the fastest Ukrainian advance since forcing Russia to withdraw from the capital and northeast more than a month ago.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the Finns would be “warmly welcomed” and promised a “smooth and swift” accession process. French President Emmanuel Macron said he fully supported Finland’s choice to join the alliance.
Finland’s 1,300-km (800-mile) border will more than double the length of the frontier between the U.S.-led alliance and Russia, putting NATO guards a few hours’ drive from the northern outskirts of St Petersburg.
“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement.
Asked whether Finland’s accession posed a direct threat to Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Definitely. NATO expansion does not make our continent more stable and secure.
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Russia’s foreign ministry said Moscow would be forced to take “retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature”, giving no further details.
Russian officials have spoken in the past about potential measures including stationing nuclear-armed missiles on the Baltic Sea.
Five diplomats and officials told Reuters that NATO allies expect both countries to be granted membership quickly, paving the way for an increased troop presence in the Nordic region to defend them during a one-year ratification period.
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