Dozens of Nato landing craft churned through the Baltic’s grey waters. Further out at sea, huge warships – the US’s San Antonio, Britain’s Ocean and Poland’s Lublin – filled the horizon. On the beach, DVs – short for distinguished visitors – including the UK defence secretary, Michael Fallon, were watching.

The landing craft, especially the mega hovercraft of the Americans, were monstrous, on a scale that would have awed D-day veterans. Eurofighter Typhoons flew overhead. Marines raced out to disappear into the woods. A reminder that even the most carefully planned operations can go wrong came when a Polish transport vessel sank, ignominiously, about 100ft from shore.

The mock landing at Ustka, Poland, on Wednesday was the climax of a two-week Nato exercise called Baltops. Forty-nine naval vessels from 17 countries and 5,900 personnel were involved in this major show of strength.

It was a dangerous game. One of Russia’s most important naval bases, Kaliningrad, is just over 100 miles to the east, and the Kremlin may view such exercises as a provocation at a time of heightened tension over the Ukraine crisis.
Vladimir Putin opens Russian ‘military Disneyland’ Patriot Park
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Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, this week announced plans to buy 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles this year. The US, two years after pulling all its armour out of Europe, is preparing to send 250 tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery to bases in eastern Europe.

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