On patrol with Royal Welsh soldiers on NATO's biggest military exercise in a generation

  • ITV Wales journalist Andrea Byrne and camera operator Liam Ketcher sent this special report from Poland.

Royal Welsh soldiers are among those on NATO's biggest military exercise in a generation, set in Poland against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Operation Steadfast Defender has involved more than 30 NATO countries working together, making it the organisation's largest military exercise since the Cold War.

With Russia's invasion of Ukraine now in its third year, how the UK invests in its military to meet new threats is very much at the top of the political agenda, with the UK Government announcing an extra £75billion to respond to the threat of authoritarian states.

Royal Welsh soldiers are among those training in Poland on the exercise designed to boost the ability of allies like the UK and US to work together, should they need to, with armed forces adapting combat techniques to face new global threats.

Corporal Danny Nye, from the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, said: "When I joined it was Afghanistan, now it's very focused on what Russia is doing.

"We've had to re-learn things for a different theatre, lots of things that would work in Afghanistan don't work here."

Lieutenant Colonel Ed Wilcox, of the same battalion, echoed this, saying: "Of course the situation in Ukraine is a backdrop to this exercise, and we absolutely stand in solidarity with the brave Ukrainians in that fight.

"This location is not coincidental but I think by being here we make Russia's actions in Ukraine less likely elsewhere in Europe."

Eight hundred vehicles have been transported to Poland for the training exercise involving 90,000 troops overall, with 16,000 British troops moving through Europe for the task.

It's the first time Welsh reservists have taken part.

Lance Corporal Will Williams, from the 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh, is an Anglesey park ranger in his day job.

"We've got a great team working on Anglesey doing that role and also working through the Royal Welsh," he said.

"It's a very similar but also quite different role. This is slightly more adrenaline-filled and action-packed."

This week, UK Government defence secretary Grant Shapps justified spending an extra £75billion to respond to the threat of authoritarian states.

But a cross-party group of MPs says the army isn't ready should they be needed. They have criticised the army's recruitment, stockpiles of weapons and ammunition.

Since then, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been to the training ground in Poland and pledged a boost to defence spending, promising a total annual spend of £87billion by 2030. The defence secretary called it "precisely what the armed forces needed".

But shadow defence secretary John Healey wasn't so sure, saying: "You cant deter Putin with press releases."

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