May 25, 2019

NATO Trident Juncture Exercise: a message of deterrence to everyone

By Guido Lanfranchi

At the end of October, NATO started its Trident Juncture 2018 exercise in and around Norway, simulating the Alliance’s reaction to a violation of Norway’s sovereignty. Admiral James Foggo, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, says that the exercise sends a strong message of deterrence.


Almost 50,000 personnel, 10,000 vehicles, 250 aircraft, and over 65 ships, from all 29 NATO Allies and two partner nations, Sweden and Finland, deployed in and around Norway, in spite of uneasy climatic conditions. These are the figures of NATO Trident Juncture 2018 exercise, kick-started at the end of October 2018 and set to simulate NATO’s reaction to a violation of Norway’s sovereignty.

As Admiral James Foggo, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa puts it, Trident Juncture is an “opportunity to test our capacity and capability to respond to a collective defense scenario” in Norway. By doing so, NATO “sends a message of deterrence to anybody who might want to bother those countries,” specifying that he has “no particular country in mind” while saying so.

The fact that Article 5 has been used only once in the seventy years of existence of NATO should not be interpreted as absence of dangers – Admiral Foggo noted answering to comments on Trident Juncture’s value. Rather – he stressed – the lack of breaches to NATO members’ sovereignty should be interpreted as a success of the Alliance’s policy of deterrence.

“In order to deter, you must be present” – Admiral Foggo stated, noting that Trident Juncture shows NATO’s ability to deploy and be present to defend its members. Highlighting the importance of doing such deployment in a short time, the Admiral stressed the important role played by the recently established Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, a 8,000 personnel force aimed at rapidly responding to threats, which is currently being tested in the Trident Juncture exercise.

Albeit important, deterrence cannot be the only focus of NATO – Admiral Foggo stressed. Recalling the “3 D’s strategy” of NATO Secretary General Mr. Jens Stoltenberg, the Admiral emphasized the need to combine Deterrence, Defence, and Dialogue. While the first two points often grab much attention, the third point is extremely important – the Admiral said, providing examples of regular high-level contacts between NATO generals and their counterparts from a series of countries, including Russia.

In the framework of such dialogue, it should come as no surprise that Russian observers could witness parts of the Trident Juncture exercise, in full compliance with OSCE rules. Similarly, Russia’s establishment of a warning area in international waters off Norway represents a normal communication, devoid of any impact on NATO exercise – Admiral Foggo clarified.

Seventy years after the creation of NATO, the Alliance is still active and determined to send strong messages of deterrence to any third country,

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