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NATO ANNOUNCES THE COMMENCEMENT OF JOINT EXERCISE STEADFAST DEFENDER 2024 AND CAMEROON INTRODUCES THE FIRST GLOBAL MALARIA VACCINE RTS,S

January 18-24, 2024 | Issue 3 - EUCOM and AFRICOM

Jayde Dorland, Barbara Batycka, Kiara Alexander, Jennifer Radlinsky, Ektoras Papadimitriou

Elena Alice Rossetti, Editor; Radhika Venkatachalam, Senior Editor


Former Joint-NATO Exercise Trident Juncture[1]


Date: January 18, 2024

Location: Brussels, Belgium

Parties involved: NATO; NATO military committee; NATO military committee chairman Admiral Rob Bauer; NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Christopher Cavoli; NATO countries; NATO candidate Sweden; NATO countries’ armed forces; NATO countries’ civilians; Romania; Romanian citizens; US; UK; Russian President Vladimir Putin; Russia; Russian government; Russian disinformation actors; Russian citizens; Ukraine; pro-Ukrainian political parties; social media platforms

The event: Cavoli announced the commencement of Steadfast Defender 2024, a joint exercise between NATO countries and candidate-member Sweden, starting in the week beginning January 22 and lasting through to May 2024. He said, “Steadfast Defender 2024 will be the largest NATO exercise in decades,” including the participation of approximately 90,000 forces from member countries.[2] The exercise intends to demonstrate NATO countries’ military strength, unity, and determination to protect each other, their shared values, and the international order.[3] The exercise will comprise smaller drills spanning from North America to Eastern Europe, nearing the Russian border. Bauer outlined the need for NATO countries' civilians to prepare for a potential future war with Russia, and Steadfast Defender 2024 displays NATO allies’ readiness to protect themselves from an attack.[4]

Analysis & Implications:

  • NATO will almost certainly exploit the joint exercises to communicate its seriousness on European security to Russia, likely scheduling regular military committee meetings to assess member countries’ readiness for war outbreaks. NATO’s exercises will almost certainly check troop response, operational capabilities, and weaponry quality, allowing the alliance to identify vulnerabilities, training opportunities, and financing needs. Future exercises will likely integrate practice with the latest technologies and expand to include land, sea, and air drills as a response to the evolving threat environment and NATO’s commitment to security and responsiveness. A showcase of NATO members’ united strength will very likely attempt to pressure Russia, having a roughly even chance of dissuading the Kremlin from attacking NATO members.

  • The Kremlin will almost certainly launch a disinformation campaign targeting NATO in response to the announcement, very likely suggesting these military drills will threaten Russian national security. Russia will very likely share the campaign through social media platforms, targeting audiences inside Russia to solidify support for Putin and in NATO countries to undermine the Steadfast Defender 2024 exercise. NATO allies with significant ties to the Kremlin, such as Romania, will likely receive an influx of misleading narratives, almost certainly attempting to gain citizens’ support for Russia’s position in the Ukrainian conflict. Russian-linked disinformation actors will almost certainly target NATO member countries that offer military and humanitarian support for Ukraine, including the US and UK, with narratives aiming to sabotage upcoming elections and diminish support for parties favoring Ukraine’s position.


Date: January 22, 2024

Location: Cameroon

Parties involved: Cameroon; Cameroonian government; Cameroonian health authorities; Cameroonian citizens; Cameroonian children; Ambazonia separatist rebels in Cameroon; Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC); Kenya; Ghana; Malawi; other African countries; World Health Organization (WHO); international vaccination organization GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); global health non-governmental organization Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI)

The event: Cameroonian health authorities in partnership with the WHO, GAVI, UNICEF, Africa CDC, and CHAI are introducing the first global malaria vaccine, RTS,S, to prevent and control malaria and safeguard children from illness and death. The distribution of the RTS,S in Cameroon is the first step of an initiative planning to introduce national immunization services across Africa following a pilot program in Kenya, Malawi, and Ghana. Cameroon will distribute 331,200 RTS,S doses among 42 health districts. The vaccine pilot program proved a 13 percent decrease in child mortality and reductions in severe malaria cases and hospitalization,[5] but implementing the RTS,S vaccine alongside the use of mosquito nets and malaria tablets could offer children 90 percent protection from the disease. Cameroon is offering the four-dose RTS,S vaccine to infants under six months; 80 percent of the 600,000 yearly malaria fatalities in Africa are children under five.[6]  

Analysis & Implications:

  • Armed separatists will very likely target health facilities, personnel, and supplies, very likely disrupting the vaccination campaign and securing additional income sources. Ambazonian rebels will very likely attack health clinics offering vaccinations in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest regions, very likely to contest State presence and governance practices. Separatists will likely target and kidnap health workers, accusing them of colluding with the State, very likely to intimidate civil servants and dissuade the population from cooperating with the government. Rebels will likely raid facilities storing vaccines, very likely exploiting them as a lucrative resource.

  • Vaccinations and other prevention methods will unlikely completely eradicate malaria in the short term, although they will likely enhance the monitoring capacity, preparedness, and resilience of the Cameroonian healthcare system. Insights from vaccinations will almost certainly benefit future healthcare campaigns and surveillance programs, likely improving healthcare providers’ outbreak response. Health workers will very likely examine and treat children for multiple diseases while administering vaccinations, increasing the quality of observations and implementing more robust public health responses to those needs. Decreasing vaccine-preventable diseases will almost certainly lessen public health system treatment burdens and allow the created infrastructure to provide continuing care, likely increasing positive long-term outcomes.

  • Successful vaccination efforts in Cameroon will almost certainly increase other African countries’ interest in RTS,S, likely leading to tension and debates among them on vaccine allocations. There is a roughly even chance the WHO will struggle to prioritize vaccine distribution between countries with the highest malaria-related deaths and countries with larger political sway in the region, very likely following its previous announcement on vaccine hierarchy based on malaria impacts. Countries will unlikely use vaccine exchange as diplomatic leverage, as possible repercussions from WHO, such as public denouncement and non-compliance sanctions, will likely discourage them.


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[2] Joint Press Conference, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, January 2024, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_221779.htm 

[3] Ibid

[4] NATO Announces Months-long Exercise With 90,000 Troops, Barron’s, January 2024, https://www.barrons.com/news/nato-announces-months-long-exercise-with-90-000-troops-aaea653b?refsec=topics_afp-news 

[5] Cameroon kicks off malaria vaccine rollout, World Health Organization, January 2024, https://www.afro.who.int/countries/cameroon/news/cameroon-kicks-malaria-vaccine-rollout 

[6] Cameroon starts world-first malaria mass vaccine rollout, BBC, January 2024, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-68037008 

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