IDF paratroopers of the 101st Battalion in training (IDF)

For the first time in history, IDF soldiers are participating in NATO’s Saber Strike War Games in Europe.

By: United with Israel Staff and AP

For the first time in history, IDF soldiers are participating in a massive NATO exercise in Eastern Europe.

The US-led Saber Strike military exercise with 18,000 soldiers from 19 primarily NATO countries has kicked off in the alliance’s eastern flank involving Poland and the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.

Non-NATO member Israel will be taking part in Saber Strike for the first time. Israel has sent paratroopers to the war games who will operate under the 173rd Brigade of the US European Command.

“The purpose of the exercise is to improve mutual cooperation among the participating armies,” the IDF stated.

The US Army Europe stated Sunday the Saber Strike 18 drill is spread around the region until June 15 as “a demonstration of the commitment and solidarity of the Alliance” at a time when Russia’s military maneuvers are increasingly worrying to NATO members.

It stressed, however, that Saber Strike “is not a provocation of Russia.”

Saber Strike is an annual international exercise held since 2010 by the United States Army Europe (USAREUR).

NATO has deployed some 6,000 troops in the Baltics and Poland.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), also known as the North Atlantic Alliance, in 2016 recognized an official Israeli representative and granted Israel a permanent office at its headquarters in Brussels.

Israel is not a member of the 28 member military alliance, but has enjoyed military cooperation with the body in a number of fields and is a partner of the Mediterranean Dialogue, a NATO outreach program with seven friendly nations bordering the Mediterranean.

Israel routinely collaborates with other armed forces from around the world, connecting with important allies and strengthening global security in general.

Recently, Israel’s Navy received its first invitation from the US Navy to participate in this summer’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise in Hawaii.

The US Navy announced on Wednesday that 27 nations, 47 surface ships, five submarines, 18 national land forces, and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel will participate in RIMPAC in June.

Israel is the only representative from the Middle East.