Trident Juncture & natural resources in Africa


During the NATO exercise Trident Juncture 2015 the alliance will practice military interventions in North Africa

Marines from the US train in la Sierra del Retin, Barbate

Marines from the US train in la Sierra del Retin, Barbate

The NATO exercise Trident Juncture 2015 will take place during October 2015 and until early November in Italy, Portugal, and the State of Spain. According to a variety of sources, this will be the “largest exercise of NATO since the end of the Cold War1, “largest exercise conducted by the Alliance since 2002” (…) and “the Alliance’s most important exercise in 20152, or “the largest deployment of the Alliance in the last decade3. The exercise consists of two clearly distinguished phases, a command post exercise (CPX, 3-16 October) and a phase of real action (Live Exercise, LIVEX, 21 October-6 November).

As the Spanish Ministry of Defence says: “The CPX phase ... expects to evaluate and certify the command structure of the NRF 2016, and will take place in installations in Germany, Belgium, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, the United Kingdom and in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean.

During LIVEX ... different naval, aerial, terrestrial offensive operations, amphibian landing operations, parachute jumps, urban actions, interventions in a CRBN [chemical, radiological, biological, and nuclear – the author] environment, and actions of special operations forces will be trained.4

This means that during the CPX phase the military will play in their barracks (or headquarters), while during the LIVEX phase they will be getting out and will play war with tanks, air planes and warships in our territories; 36,000 soldiers from more than 30 countries will take part in Italy, Portugal, and the State of Spain, and more than half of them – 20,000 soldiers – will do so in the State of Spain. In addition, parts of the exercise will take place in other countries: Belgium, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, and the naval parts of the exercise will take place in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean.

According to the information from the Ministry of Defence, “of the participating military, about 20,000 will be deployed in the National Training Centres of San Gregorio (Zaragoza) and Chinchilla (Albacete), in the Exercise and Firing Range ‘Álvarez de Sotomayor’ (Almería) and the Amphibian Training Range of the Sierra del Retín (Cádiz), and as well in the areas of the military bases of Albacete, Son San Joan (Palma de Mallorca), Torrejón and Zaragoza.5 We also know that the US Marines from the military base of Morón de la Frontera (Sevilla) will participate in the exercise to “test the interoperability of the MV-22 Osprey planes: takeoff, landing and the possibility to transport them6 on the Spanish aircraft carrier Juan Carlos I, which is based in Rota.

In Andalucía alone there are three places where the exercises will take place: the Exercise and Firing Range ‘Álvarez de Sotomayor’ (Almería), the Amphibian Training Range Sierra del Retín (Cádiz), and the air base of Morón de la Frontera (Sevilla). In addition a range of military units that normally are based in Andalucía will take part.

Even though within the State of Spain the main part of the military will be deployed at San Gregorio (Zaragoza), Andalucía will also have an important role during the exercises, especially for the interoperability training between the different air, land, and naval forces of the participating countries. In Andalucía are two places for the training of invasions of land from the water: the Exercise and Firing Range ‘Álvarez de Sotomayor’ (Almería), the Amphibian Training Range Sierra del Retín (Cádiz).

Trident Juncture 2015: What are the military “training”?

According to the press release of the Ministry of Defence of the State of Spain, “‘Trident Juncture 2015’ is the high visibility exercise of the Connected Forces Initiative of the Atlantic Alliance in which more than 30,000 soldiers from more than 30 countries will participate, and of which 20,000 will train simultaneously in Spain.

The “Connected Forces Initiative” (CFI) was approved at the NATO summit in Chicago in 2012 as one of the key programmes to achieve the objective “NATO Forces 2020”. At the NATO summit in Wales in 2014, and taking into account the crisis between Ukraine and Russia and the increased security challenges in the Middle East and the North of Africa and beyond, NATO approved the “Readiness Action Plan (RAP)” and in addition six key measures as part of the Connected Forces Initiative – one of them the exercise Trident Juncture 2015 and a more extensive exercise programme from 2016 on.

During Trident Juncture 2015 NATO will for the first time train the new Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, approved at the summit in Wales, and which will be commanded by the State of Spain in 2016.

As for every exercise, NATO has its scenario for Trident Juncture, which is called the “SOROTAN scenario”. The scenario “reflects a very complex threat environment in the fictional “Cerasia” region and looks to challenge NATO forces with a wide range of conventional and unconventional threats, including hybrid warfare.7 More concretely the scenario deals with a conflict between two countries – Kamon and Lakuta – over water. “With desertification, dry aquifers, riparian disputes and an ever diminishing resource, Kamon, the aggressor country in the region, refuses international arbitration and invades southwards in order to seize key dams in Lakuta, which was caught ill-prepared to counter the invasion.8 And so, according to NATO's logic, what is needed is a military intervention by NATO.

NATO says that with Trident Juncture the lessons learned from the war in Afghanistan will be put into practice As one of the NATO officials in charge of the exercises says, Trident Juncture has been planned deliberately “to be a keystone event for NATO as we shift our focus from over a decade of really intensity counterinsurgency; to start to recalibrate our posture for the current security environment.9 And where is SOROTAN? General Hans-Lothar Domröse tells us: “It is an artificial fictive scenario taking place in SOROTAN which is a kind of parts of Africa.“10

In this context it is interesting that NATO refers in the introduction of another document about the SOROTAN scenario11 to a study by the think tank "Strategic Foresight Group", based India, about water cooperation and conflict12. Is it just a coincidence that the debate about the role of climate change in present (and future) armed conflicts is all the time getting more intense13, and that a study related drought and climate change with the war in Syria14?
That NATO sees climate change – or, more correctly, the conflicts caused by climate change – as a challenge is not new.. NATO's Strategic Concept, approved at the NATO summit in Lisbon in 201015, and the strategic concepts of the US, European Union or of the State of Spain mention climate change as a “challenge” for “collective security” in the future. Now, with the exercise Trident Juncture, this analysis is put into practice during a military training.

Africa: more than armed conflict and climate change

But NATO (and other countries) are not only interested in Africa because of the conflict potential of climate change. Additionally, and maybe more importantly, the continent is rich in abundant natural resources. For example, Africa has important mineral resources which represent one third of global reserves, and much more of some important minerals: 89% of the platinum reserves, 81% of chrome, 61% of magnesium, 60% of cobalt, among others16.

Additionally, according to Didier Lluch, Director of Explorations in Africa of the Spanish multinational Repsol, even though African countries only produce one tenth of global petrol production “it is a continent in which there is still a lot to do”. Lluch continues that “only 12 of the 54 African nations have oil or gas on their territory..So far there are still large areas almost completely unexplored, such as the east of Africa”, but also countries that are considered mature, such as Algeria “are big and conceal still a lot of resources17.

Source: Explotación de los recursos naturales en África: La Industria Extractiva. Hidrocarburos y minerales, January 2014,

Source: Explotación de los recursos naturales en África: La Industria Extractiva. Hidrocarburos y minerales, January 2014,…

Source: Explotación de los recursos naturales en África: La Industria Extractiva. Hidrocarburos y minerales, January,

Nevertheless, on the continent the relation between mineral resources or oil and gas resources and social or armed conflicts is very clear – in addition to serious environmental degradation, which in itself can cause conflicts. As Jesús García-Luengos writes in his report Explotación de los recursos naturales en África: La Industria Extractiva. Hidrocarburos y minerales: “The impact derived from the exploitation of these resources on society and the health of local communities and the environment is very significant. .... Additionally, the grabbing of natural resources continues to contribute to increasing the instability in large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, and to aggravate and prolong conflicts. Other resources such as fish, forests and agricultural resources – with land grabbing of large dimensions – are equally over-exploited and exhausted.18

NATO together with civil society? NATO's new “total wars”

One of the lessons learned during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is that what NATO can achieve through its military power is limited. And they say so openly. The “hybrid war” of which NATO talks is in reality a “total war” that includes all aspects of society. On the military level, hybrid war includes “cybernetic war”, more “military intelligence”, the use of new technologies such as drones to obtain more intelligence and to kill those seen as the enemy – with many “collateral victims”, as we can observe for many years in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and in other countries where principally the USA are using their drones.

According to the SOROTAN scenario for the exercise Trident Juncture 2015, part of the exercise is about the “battle for the narratives” or “working inside an information environment that is risky both in NATO home countries as well as in the region where the intervention is occurring.19. Propaganda is an integral part of war – something which is not that new, but all the time more important. Both, the conflict in Ukraine and the war in Syria show that in a context with massive propaganda by various actors of the conflict it is also difficult and complex for antimilitarists to develop an independent perspective. NATO is working to make this even more difficult in the future, and not by using the old tool of censorship, but through massive propaganda and desinformation.

Today NATO admits that only through military means you cannot create peace. In July 2015 the commander of the exercise, General general Hans-Lothar Domröse emphasized that to create peace “and we know it by heart... it's only possible with international organizations and big organizations like the Red Cross, humanitarian assistance, and the EU as a real powerbroker20. And because of that in new ways of NATO to fight its war the civilian institutions will have a key role. In a first version of the information about Trident Juncture published on the NATO website, NATO said “The aim of IO/NGO/GO participation in the exercise is to improve NATO’s ability to interact with essential civil actors.” The list of organisations that had been public in the past included the European Union, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and various UN agencies21, and a list of NGOs and state humanitarian agencies: “Save the Children, Assistência Médica Internacional Foundation (AMI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Department for International Development (DFID), Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID - SPA) and World Vision (WV) were approved to participate in the White Cell of the exercise. African Union (AU) was approved to observe it.22

The participation of the various UN agencies, of the European Union or of the state agencies for international cooperation does not surprise, nor the participation of the Red Cross. But the participation of some of the NGOs does surprise. In fact, the cooptation of NGOs and “civil society” by NATO is extremely worrying. Luckily Médecins Sans Frontières informed one of their supporters by email that “all is an error by NATO itself in their website, and we only discovered it thanks to various messages from our supporters such as yours.””23 In fact, the mention of Médecins Sans Frontières did surprise; the NGO did strongly critizise the attempts by NATO to involve the humanitarian NGOs in its strategy in Afghanistan. And what do Human Rights Watch or Save the Children say? How do they justify their participation in a military exercise?

General Hans-Lothar Domröse confirmed the participation of “more than a dozen NGOs” and: “There are a few amongst them who said: 'We are eager to participate; but please do not mention my name'. I respect this.24 Probably that is the reason why NATO deleted the information on the NGOs and international organisations that participate in the exercise from their website.

For antimilitarists it is not new and also not difficult to understand that with the tools of war you cannot create peace. We could say that it is good that NATO is learning this lesson. However, when NATO says this we should probably get worried. This does not mean that NATO will now embark on a path towards disarmament and leave the leading role to the civilian institutions. To the contrary: NATO is trying to coopt the civilian institutions and the NGOs in order to integrate them in its strategy, which is above all a military one, and following a military logic which they then will want to apply also to the work of civilian institutions and of NGOS, as various NGOs criticised during the war in Afghanistan25.

And Russia?

It is pretty clear that the largest NATO exercise for more than a decade has also been designed to send a message to Russia. It is also likely that the increase in the size of the exercises from the initially planned 20-25,000 soldiers to more than 30,000 soldiers is related to the crisis in Ukraine and the intensification of the conflict between NATO and Russia. In this context the participation of Ukraine – which formally is not a member state of the alliance – is significant. Trident Juncture not only serves to demonstrate to Russia the military capability (and the will) of NATO, it also serves to train the cooperation with the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

However, the main message is not for Russia, and much less for the Islamic State, Al Quaida or Boko Haram. It is more likely that the main message is for China, a country that has powerful economic and geostrategic interests in Africa. China is investing a lot in the countries of Africa, and is constructing infrastructure to assure itself of the natural resources – above all minerals – of the continent. The National Petroleum Corporation of China, one of the petrol companies of the Asian country, receives almost all of its supplies from the oil fields of Sudan and South Sudan26. China participates also with military in the United Nations mission in South Sudan. In fact, this is the first time China participates with military forces – and not with just a little: 700 soldiers with drones, anti-tank missiles and other weapons – in a military mission in Africa27. Even though China is the country that contributes most to peace missions of the UN, “this involves principally engineers, medical personnel, transport and security guards”, says Chema Caballero in a blog post of El Pais. “Never before did it send armed troops, if we exclude the occasional elite batallon in Mali or South Sudan to protect its own personnel. Curiously enough the first time it does this is in South Sudan, and we have to see why this is.28 And now the country is negotiating a military base in the city of Obeck in Djibouti29.

Chema Caballero concludes: “It would also not be surprising if in the coming years we would be witness to a larger military presence of the Asian giant in Africa with the excuse of support to UN mission, for example30.

In fact already today many of the armed conflicts in Africa at least have as one important aspect the control over natural resources – water, minerals, oil and gas. This is the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in Sudan and South Sudan (oil), in Nigeria (oil) and in other African countries.

At the same time Africa is a continent on which up to now not all of the resources have been divided up between the main actors of the globalised world. On the content a fierce competition over access to and control over natural resources is taking place, with China as one of the principal actors that compete with the US and European multinational companies. Even though the military presence of China compared to the US or the old colonial powers France and United Kingdom is still pretty small, the NATO exercise can be understood as a message to China that NATO will not tolerate that China established itself as a military power in Africa.

The State of Spain: NATO's spearhead

In the power games about Africa the State of Spain has an important role, and in addition it has its own military and economic interests. In fact, the State of Spain is quite active on the continent with its military, in UN missions, interventions of the European Union, and in bilateral cooperations with African countries such as Mauritania31.

Military presence of the State of Spain in Africa and the Middle East

Source:, accessed on 10 August 2015

In fact, the great majority of Spanish military interventions took and are taking place on the continent, or in the Middle East32. The principal themes of many of these missions are the “fight against jihadism”, the control of illegal migration and – less openly – the access to natural resources, either directly or via securing the transport routes of these resources (Red Sea and the Horn of Africa).

But the State of Spain is also one spearhead due to its proximity to the continent, and because of its military and civilian infrastructure. For example, the port of Las Palmas on the Canary Islands did transform itself into “a strategic base for humanitarian aid” to Africa for organisations such as the Red Cross, the UN World Food Program and USAID33. Two of these three agencies take part in the NATO exercise Trident Juncture 2015.

A key role in the military strategy towards Africa plays the US base of Morón de la Frontera in Andalucía, where the US marine special forces under the command of AFRICOM are based34. Only a few months ago the State of Spain and the USA signed an agreement about the increase of US military personnel on the base up to 3,000 soldiers35. It does not surprise that the marines from Morón will also participate in the NATO exercise, and they are also interested in using the Spanish aircraft carrier for their MV-22B Osprey aircraft. The navy base of Rota is another key base. According to the official information of the US Navy Rota serves as support base for all US naval forces in Africa and Europe, above all for the 6th fleet. In addition, the base provides logistic and emergency support for all US or NATO forces36. And as headquarters of the Spanish Navy, ROTA serves during 2015 as headquarters of the naval response forces of NATO.

Other important infrastructure include the United Kingdom navy base on Gibraltar and various bases and units of the Spanish Armed Forces. The State of Spain also hosts the High Readiness Force Land Headquarters of NATO in Betera (Valencia) – these headquarters will receive certification for commanding of the new Very High Readiness Forces of NATO during Trident Juncture 2015, and will lead this new force in 2016.



Because of the high relevance of the exercise Trident Juncture 2015, a variety of groups are preparing acts of protest and/or resistance. There are initiatives by the pacifist and antimilitarist movement of Andalucía to organise civil disobedience action in Barbate (Amphibian Training Range of the Sierra del Retín ) with the support of Alternativa Antimilitarista.MOC on the level of the State of Spain and of the European Antimilitarist Network. Other groups are organising protests in Zaragoza (National Training Centre of San Gregorio) and in Barcelona.

It is likely that during September and October more protests and actions of civil disobedience will be planned and announced. With such important and threatening NATO exercises on our door step, the antimilitarist movement needs to get organised.

Andreas Speck

Andreas Speck is an activist with the Antimilitarist and Nonviolent Network of Andalucía (Red Antimilitarista y Noviolenta de Andalucía (RANA)). His website is

Translation from the original Spanish to English by the author.


1The 82a División Aerotransportada in its Facebook page, 2 July 2015:

2NATO: Media backgrounder Trident Juncture 2015, 15 June 2015,

3 Ministerio de Defensa: Morenés presenta el ejercicio de la OTAN ‘Trident Juncture 2015’, Nota de prensa, 2 July 2015,

4 Ministerio de Defensa: Morenés presenta el ejercicio de la OTAN ‘Trident Juncture 2015’, Nota de prensa, 2 July 2015,

5 Ministerio de Defensa: Morenés presenta el ejercicio de la OTAN ‘Trident Juncture 2015’, Nota de prensa, 2 July 2015,

6 Esteban Villarejo: Los «marines de Morón», interesados en usar el «Juan Carlos I» en sus misiones, Por Tierra, Mar y Aire, 5 Jult 2015,

7 SOROTAN will challenge NATO against hybrid threats , 2 March 2015,

8 SOROTAN will challenge NATO against hybrid threats , 2 March 2015,

9 General Phil Jones (Chief of Staff Allied Command Transformation on NATO exercise Trident Juncture 2015), Press briefing on NATO exercise Trident Juncture 2015, 15 July 2015,

10 General Hans-Lothar Domröse (Comandante JFC Brunssum): Press briefing on NATO exercise Trident Juncture 2015, 15 July 2015,

11 CDR Tristan Lovering MBE: SOROTAN War-Gaming, NATO Joint Warfare Center, 17 December 2014,

12 Strategic Foresight Group: Water Cooperation for a Secure World – Focus on the Middle East, 2013,

13 See for ex example:, or La ONU vincula por primera vez desertificación, cambio climático y conflictos armados,

14 Un estudio relaciona la sequía y el cambio climático con la guerra en Siria, La Vanguardia, 3 March 2015,

15 OTAN: Active Engagement, Modern Defence. Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of the Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation adopted by Heads of State and Government in Lisbon, 19 de noviembre de 2010,

16 Fundación Sur: Recursos mineros en África, 12 de abril de 2011,

17 Repsol: África: la nueva frontera del petróleo, 13 de junio de 2014,

18 Jesús García-Luengos: Explotación de los recursos naturales en África: La Industria Extractiva. Hidrocarburos y minerales, January 2014,

19 SOROTAN will challenge NATO against hybrid threats , 2 March 2015,

20 General Hans-Lothar Domröse (Comandante JFC Brunssum): Press briefing on NATO exercise Trident Juncture 2015, 15 July 2015,

21 United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), International Organization for Migration (IOM)

22 NATO:, version accessed on 12 June 2015

23 Médicos sin Fronteras: Correo electrónico a un miembro de aa.moc, 19 June 2015

24 General Hans-Lothar Domröse (Comandante JFC Brunssum): Press briefing on NATO exercise Trident Juncture 2015, 15 July 2015,

25 For example: Aid Groups Urge NATO to Separate Military and Humanitarian Activities to Protect Civilians in Afghanistan, International Rescue Committee, 19 November 2010,; Afghanistan aid groups say NATO threatens their neutrality, PANOS Londres, 21 April 2010,

26 China, en expansión: el poder militar de Pekín alcanza el Cuerno de África, La Nación, 9 June 2015,

27 China inicia primera misión de tropas para la ONU en Sudán del Sur, BBC Mundo, 27 February 2015,

28 Chema Caballero: China la está armando, África no es un país,, 7 May 2015,

29 China, en expansión: el poder militar de Pekín alcanza el Cuerno de África, La Nación, 9 June 2015,

30 Chema Caballero: China la está armando, África no es un país,, 7 May 2015,

31 La Guardia Civil patrullará también en tierra en Mauritania con la Gendarmería para combatir la inmigración ilegal,, 29 March 2014,; Also: Guardia Civil: La “intensa y vital” colaboración entre España y Mauritania se “eleva a un nivel superior” con la firma de un convenio de lucha contra la criminalidad, nota de prensa, 26 May 2015,

32 Ministerio de Defensa:, accessed on 10 August 2015

33 See for example:, accessed on 10 August 2015

34 Base Aérea de Morón, la “joya oculta” del despliegue mundial del Pentágono,,, acceso el dia 11 de agosto de 2015

35 El País, 16 de julio de 2015,

36, acceso el día 11 de agosto de 2015

Programmes & Projects

Add new comment