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James Stavridis

NATO's Nuclear War Games Are a Risk It Needs to Take

Going ahead with operation Steadfast Noon during the Ukraine war shows Putin that the West won't back down from his threats.

Polish power.

Polish power.

Photographer: Omar Marques/Getty Images 

This week, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization started a round of exercises of its nuclear capabilities in Western Europe, centered in Belgium and the UK. This comes at a particularly fraught moment in NATO-Russian relations, to say the least, given President Vladimir Putin’s frequent rattling of the nuclear saber over the past six months. Russia is “not bluffing” about tactical nukes, he insists.

While the NATO exercises were scheduled long ago — they are an annual part of a regular planning cycle  — they come at an uncomfortable moment. What will the multinational drills seek to accomplish, and why did NATO decide to move ahead with them now?