‘Steadfast Noon,’ NATO’s annual nuclear exercise to defend the territory of the treaty organisation with nuclear weapons, will take place next week in Belgium, Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder (PS) said on Wednesday on the margins of a NATO defence ministers meeting in Brussels.
"There will be aircraft flying over Belgium and the North Sea,” said Minister Dedonder, specifying that about 50 aircraft from around 10 countries would be involved. She also emphasised that this was “not about a counter-reaction to anything” but that it was a “long-planned exercise that takes place regularly,” as part of NATO's capacity training. “That’s normal, soldiers do that to be prepared,” she said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had already announced on Tuesday that the exercise would take place next week. “To keep our deterrence safe and effective,” he said . He added that it would only send the wrong signal not to let the exercise go ahead, in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear rhetoric.
Russia is aware of the exercise, he said.