Massive NATO air force drill disrupting passenger flights

Lieutenant General Martin Schelleis (left) of the German armed forces Bundeswehr and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the German Armed Forces Bundeswehr Eva Hoegl stand in front of an Airbus A400M military aircraft of the German Air Force during the Air Defender Exercise 2023 at the military air base in Wunstorf, northern Germany, on June 12, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)

FRANKFURT — Airlines operating passenger flights in and around Germany are more or less anxious as a massive NATO drill is closing or restricting a large swath of Germany's airspace.

"Air Defender 23," the biggest-ever NATO air force deployment exercise, which involves 10,000 military personnel and 250 combat aircraft from 25 nations, kicked off on Monday and will last until June 23.

NATO claims that the drill, conceived in 2018, is not targeted at anyone. However, Wefing told Xinhua that he believes that the drill will provoke Russia and escalate the situation in Ukraine

According to a spokesperson for German air traffic control, the drill, being carried out mainly in German airspace, will have a considerable impact on passenger flights.

READ MORE: NATO begins its biggest ever air exercise

Consequently, up to 800 passenger flights will have to be rerouted, and around 40 percent of them will have to cover distances about 110 km longer, said the spokesperson.

Passengers must deal with possible delays, prolonged flight time and cancellations during the two weeks.

The show of military might by NATO comes at a time when the Ukraine crisis rages on.

"If they want to use maneuvers to demonstrate, to intimidate others, they are always the wrong sign," said Thomas Wefing, one of the locals who took to the streets protesting the NATO military exercise.

NATO claims that the drill, conceived in 2018, is not targeted at anyone. However, Wefing told Xinhua that he believes that the drill will provoke Russia and escalate the situation in Ukraine.

READ MORE: NATO drill in Germany disrupts air traffic, prompts concerns

Echoing Wefing's concern, Egon Roth, another protester, is convinced that the Ukraine crisis can only be resolved diplomatically instead of using weapons.

Jochen Scholz, a security expert and a former military officer, fears that the military exercise will be exploited to instill the wrong idea that Russia threatens Europe's security.

"It is not Russia that is a threat to Europe, but the United States, because it sees domination of the Eurasian continent as a prerequisite for its global dominance," he said.