As NATO operation Saber Strike 17 came to a close on Sunday, around 11,000 service members from twenty different nations returned to regular duties the world over, confident that their activity increased international cooperation and served as a powerful deterrent to the potential of Russian aggression in the Baltics.  That word, “deterrent” is an important part of the strategy behind Saber Strike, as it marks a subtle shift in the terminology employed by military leaders, but a significant one in terms of actual operations.

“Less than one year ago, our alliance said we were going to transition from assurance to deterrence,” said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of U.S. Army Europe, who led the exercise. “One of the manifestations of that transition was the creation of the EFP Battlegroups. In less than one year, these battle groups are exercising already in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. That is an amazing accomplishment for our great alliance.”

Hodges added, “Deterrence means you have to have the capability to compel or defeat a potential adversary. You have to demonstrate that capability and the will to use it, and these exercises are that demonstration.”

This year’s Saber Strike exercises involved training for NATO’s enhanced forward presence (EFP) battle groups, which are integrated units comprised of members of multiple NATO-allied nations.  On paper, the exercise entailed “conducting an integrated, synchronized, deterrence-oriented field training exercise designed to improve the interoperability and readiness of participating nations’ armed forces.”