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The scale of NATO’s Steadfast Defender 2024 exercises mark an “irrevocable return” of the alliance to Cold War schemes, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told the state RIA news agency in remarks published on Sunday.

NATO said on Thursday it was launching its largest exercise since the Cold War involving some 90,000 troops, rehearsing how US troops could reinforce European allies in countries bordering Russia and on the alliance’s eastern flank if a conflict were to flare up with a “near-peer” adversary.

“These exercises are another element of the hybrid war unleashed by the West against Russia,” Grushko told RIA.

“An exercise of this scale marks the final and irrevocable return of NATO to the Cold War schemes, when the military planning process, resources and infrastructure are being prepared for confrontation with Russia.”

NATO did not mention Russia by name in its announcement.

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But its top strategic document identifies Russia as the most significant and direct threat to NATO members’ security.

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 in what Kyiv and its Western allies have said was an unprovoked imperialistic land grab.

Moscow, and its chief diplomat Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have since often accused “the collective West” of conducting a “hybrid war” against Russia by backing Ukraine through financial and military aid.

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