Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, chairman of the NATO military committee, said civilians should be ready for a potential war between the bloc and Russia as NATO is due to conduct its largest military exercise since the end of the Cold War to simulate a full-on confrontation with Russia.

He said that just as the military prepares for a possible conflict, civilians should also be ready because the war is not limited to frontline actions.

“In order to be fully effective, also in the future, we need a warfighting transformation of NATO. For this too, public-private cooperation will be the key,” said Bauer during a meeting between military leaders in Brussels.

He asked everyone to “expect the unexpected” as things can happen at a moment’s notice.

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“We need public and private actors to change their mindset from an era in which everything was plannable, foreseeable, controllable, focused on efficiency... to an era in which anything can happen at any time. An era in which we need to expect the unexpected,” he said.

“The tectonic plates of power are shifting,” he added. “And as a result: We face the most dangerous world in decades.”

Bauer’s warning came ahead of the Steadfast Defender 2024 exercise, the biggest NATO war drill since the 1988 Reforger drill.

The exercise, scheduled to run till the end of May, comprised a series of smaller individual drills that would span from North America to NATO’s eastern flank near the Russian border.

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On the way, the American Stratofortress planes flew above the Barents Sea to point-blank cruise missile range of the main air base used by Russia for its own bomber strikes against Ukraine.

It would involve 50 naval vessels, 80 aircraft, over 1,100 combat vehicles and 90,000 troops from across the military alliance.

“We’re not seeking any conflict, but if they attack us, we have to be ready,” said Bauer.

He added that while Russia’s ground forces have been severely degraded in Ukraine, it still possesses a “considerable” air and naval force.

The announcement of the war drill also coincided with the recently leaked documents from Germany’s Bundeswehr that outlined month-by-month scenarios in a potential war with Russia.

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Boris Pistorius, Germany’s defense minister, said Russia could attack NATO countries in under a decade.

“Our experts expect a period of five to eight years in which this could be possible,” Pistorius told German outlet Der Tagesspiegel.

He added that Moscow’s war in Ukraine and threats to the Baltic states should not be taken lightly.

“One thing is certain – we are dealing with a military threat situation in Europe that has not existed for 30 years.

“We see it through Russia’s attack on Ukraine. We hear threats from the Kremlin almost every day – most recently against our friends in the Baltics,” he said.

On Jan. 16 and 17, Poland and the Baltic states reported unprecedented levels of GPS interference, with an Institute for the Study of War report suspecting the involvement of Russian electronic warfare systems in Kaliningrad.

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