It’s Not All Politics

Tallinn, Estonia—This year’s NATO Saber Strike exercise is focusing more on conventional warfare rather than the counterinsurgency-type scenarios conducted in years past. That has more to do with the drawdown of combat operations in Afghanistan rather than the ongoing tensions with Russia over its activities in Ukraine, officials told Air Force Magazine during visits to Estonia and Latvia last week. “Although we have planned the exercise, and it’s not changed dramatically in the recent months, the fact is it is an important part of our reassurance efforts,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Loeben, director of analysis and assessments and senior Reserve component advisor to the head of US European Command, during an interview at Amari Air Base here in Estonia. “We’ll have several other exercises over the next year or so which will also fall into that persistent presence on this part of our NATO alliance,” he said. Most of the exercise participants said they are trying to focus on the exercise itself, rather than the current political situation with Russia, but Loeben said Canada, Finland, and Poland, “among other nations,” have “stepped up to increase their support to Saber Strike, possibly as a reaction to events on the eastern flank of NATO.”