The delicate politics of a war game

NATO is preparing for military exercises knowing that every decision risks sending the wrong signal.

People of a cheerful and optimistic disposition make good company but bad defence planners. Those dealing with threat assessments and contingency plans must think of the worst thing that can happen and how to deal with it. Outsiders may mock them for paranoia or warmongering, but the planners’ grim task makes the bad outcomes less likely.

But plans are not just about paperwork. They need to be backed up by exercises: even for a superior force, credibility depends on having practised moving troops, ammunition, fuel and food around the battlefield, ensuring communications work, and coping with the enemy’s attempts to disrupt and distract. That is particularly true when the military concerned involves more than one country.

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