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In Romania, NATO troops simulate the reconquest of an invaded territory


Two large explosions ring out. Two Romanian F16 fighter jets hover low over the Danube near Bordusani, Romania, 200 kilometers as the crow flies from the Ukrainian border. For the 2,500 soldiers from a dozen NATO countries – including France – massed on the banks of the river, this was the signal to launch the conquest of the opposite bank. A bombardment is simulated. The first Zodiacs carrying troops, in particular deminers, strafe, blank, the banks, before docking.

A few minutes later, four frigates come to position themselves on the river, while barges transport the first tanks to the other side. A floating pontoon is assembled over the entire width of the river. It will make it possible to pass the Portuguese or American armored vehicles which must intervene at a depth of 10 kilometers in enemy territory. In the sky, planes release dozens of paratroopers. A dozen Romanian or Italian helicopters close the ban.

“Objective: defeat the enemy”

“For a month, we have been on the ground preparing for this assault beyond the Danube, with the objective of defeating the enemy”explains Romanian General Constantin Nicolaescu, who is coordinating the exercise Saber Guardian » in Bordusani. “We do not name [cet objectif], says French Lieutenant-Colonel Mathieu, at the head of the 350 French soldiers engaged in the exercise. But it could well be the Russian army. »

“Saber Guardian”, which brings together, under American command, more than 10,000 soldiers on several sites in Romania, succeeds others, such as “Orion”, “Spring Storm”, “Baltic Operations”, “Joint Warrior”… Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the allies have multiplied training exercises on land, at sea or in the airs. “With the war on the other side of the border, the intensity has increased”acknowledges Italian captain Ciro Romano.

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Many exercises are based in particular on the battalions – a thousand soldiers – installed in the eight countries on the eastern flank of the Alliance. Four had taken place as early as 2014 in the Baltic States and Poland, and four others, in Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, were set up a few weeks after the outbreak of the Russian invasion in February 2022. Objective: to defend every centimeter of NATO territory, with the declared ambition of reaching, in these eight countries, the size of a brigade, ie 3,000 people.

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