……..  50,000 troops from 31 countries

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Some 50,000 troops will kick off Nato’s biggest military exercises since the cold war on Thursday in Norway, a massive show of force that has already rankled neighbouring Russia.

Trident Juncture 18, which runs until November 7, is aimed at training the Alliance to mobilise quickly to defend an ally under attack.

The head of Nato’s Allied Joint Force Command, US Navy Admiral James Foggo, said the exercise was intended to “show Nato is capable to defend against any adversary. Not a particular country, anyone.”

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Russia, which carried out Vostok 2018, its biggest ever military exercises in September in the far east that involved China and Mongolia, has not been officially identified as the intended adversary.

But it is on everyone’s minds after the 2014 Ukraine crisis.

“Russia doesn’t represent a direct military threat to Norway,” Norwegian Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said.

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“But in a security situation as complicated as we have today … an incident elsewhere could very well heighten tensions in the North and we want to prepare the Alliance in order to avoid any unfortunate incidents,” he added.

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The exercises come after US President Donald Trump has repeatedly complained that other Nato members do not contribute enough money to the 69-year-old alliance, although Defence Secretary James Mattis reassured allies of America’s “ironclad” commitment earlier this month.

While the exercises will take place at a respectful distance from Norway’s 198km (123-mile) border with Russia in the Arctic, Moscow has expressed anger over the manoeuvres.

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Norway’s biggest war drill since the Cold War

Russia was already touchy over the fact that – independently of Trident Juncture 18 – the United States and Britain have been increasing their troop presence in the Scandinavian country to acclimatise them to combat in the chilly Arctic.

And tensions between Moscow and Washington have flared in recent days after Trump announced he was abandoning a cold war-era nuclear treaty, a move which Russia warned could cripple global security.

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