Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attended NATO’s annual nuclear exercise at Volkel airbase in the Netherlands on 16 October 2020 alongside Dutch Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld as well as NATO’s top military commander, General Tod Wolters.
“This exercise is an important test for the Alliance’s nuclear deterrent,” the Secretary General said. “It is a routine, defensive exercise. And it is not directed against any country. The purpose of NATO’s nuclear deterrent is not to provoke a conflict but to preserve peace, deter aggression and prevent coercion. In an increasingly uncertain world, our nuclear forces continue to play an important role in our collective defence,” he added.
This exercise is long-planned and is not linked to any current world events. With more than 50 aircraft from across the alliance taking part, the exercise is hosted by a different NATO country each year. This year, training flights are taking place over parts of western Europe and the North Sea. Aircraft involved in the exercise do not carry live bombs.
At Volkel Airbase, Mr Stoltenberg spoke to aircrews and was briefed on the exercise scenario by the base commander. He also exchanged views with Defence Minister Bijleveld on the importance of NATO’s nuclear deterrence, stressing that at a time of evolving security challenges, it is essential that the Alliance remains protected by the full spectrum of capabilities, and promotes transparency over NATO activities to reduce risks of misunderstandings.
“Today’s exercise shows that Allies are determined to ensure that NATO’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective,” the Secretary General said. At the same time, he added, “NATO aspires to a world without nuclear weapons. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has reduced the number of nuclear weapons in Europe by around 90%.”