Image credit: The Transnational - Photo: 2020

The Largest US-Led Military Exercise in Europe Continues Despite COVID-19

Viewpoint by Jan Oberg*, The Transnational Foundation, TFF.

LUND, Sweden (IDN) -– Defender Europe 20 is a huge, basically US military exercise, on European soil between February and May this year. It has already started. In the midst of a closed-down coronavirus Europe. And it is war-preparing, not peace- or confidence-building.

The diagram above from the British Army offers you details of this perverse, surreal idea – take note of Italy being one of the planned participants!

Most likely, you have not heard about Defender Europe 20. When it comes to US foreign and war policies, all Western mainstream media practice self-censorship. The media would hardly be able to write about this exercise of militarist madness in a way that would not cause an uproar and moral condemnation in these times of deep, widespread concerns about war risks, climate change and the coronavirus.

So better not write at all and cause diplomatic troubles with the unpredictable, choleric Master in Washington.

The submissiveness of the EU to the US is well-documented by the tacit act of accepting that the unspeakably cruel US sanctions on Iran shall also be implemented by NATO/EU allies in Europe and by the fact that the EU has no alternative, unified policy vis-a-vis Russia and China – including the latter’s Belt And Road Initiative, the world’s largest and by far most visionary civilian cooperation project).

There are at least three arguments why this is – simply put – indecent and irresponsible:

  • It is clearly provocative and tension-increasing (by its size, target and overall purpose) and can only add to the Cold War atmosphere between Russia and US/NATO.
  • It is irresponsible in the extreme to hold such an exercise with tons of heavy military materiel and movement of thousands of soldiers over the Atlantic and around Europe in these times when every informed citizen anywhere is deeply concerned about the global climate situation.

Writes Judith Deutsch in a recent article on The Transnational: “The military is the single largest institutional emitter of greenhouse gases, but its emissions are exempt under the Kyoto Protocol, a convenient accomplishment negotiated by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Al Gore. In its practice of protecting property and oil installations, in its mandate to kill, and in securitizing borders, the military is also the single largest contributor to climate injustice.”

  • As of writing, there is no announcement that EuroDefender20 will be cancelled – only scaled down – because of COVID-19, the coronavirus.

The risks taken here in the name of providing “security” – one of the most grave and consistent lies of our time – is as unethical as it is irresponsible.

It is a provocation of the world’s citizens in a pandemic situation of much fear and huge risks of overall breakdown as well as deep economic crisis for months and years ahead.

For your information, the US European Command announced on March 16 (i.e. yesterday) that it would be scaled down. The US troop and equipment movement over the Atlantic would stop but that some parts of the exercise would move forward.

If there ever was a late reaction of a military whose duty is to be on the alert and react promptly, this is it.

That this was planned in the first place was madness – meaninglessly provocative, hundreds of millions of dollars wasted by countries that are all in an economic, debt and structural crisis.

It was madness to hold such thing, a provocation in the eyes of a world discussing climate change policies in what seems to be the 13th hour.

That it took the United States government, Pentagon, Army and US European Command that long to perceive the reality only proves two things:

a) they live in their own world of denial and megalomania, and

b) they have absolutely no concern for real security, i.e. the security of their citizens.

Please note that the US European Command (EUCOM) has the guts to state that: “The health, safety and readiness of our military, civilians, and family members is our primary concern.”

The primary concern is the Americans and not the citizens of Europe.

This statement comes days after President Trump announced that the US would no longer accept arrivals of civilian passenger planes from EU countries, with the exception of the UK!

And it comes after Pentagon banned all travels within the US for its own military personnel and their families amid the coronavirus!

So the US was ready to force its own military personnel and equipment – a high-risk corona phenomenon – on Europe while protecting itself from European civilians and it’s own soldiers at home.

Could corona lead to even more militarism?

Did anybody say “arrogant” or “selfish” to the exercise and its far too late reduction?

Did we hear experts or politicians cry “Outdated and out of touch in need of a reality check”?

Did you expect that? For instance that the former German defence minister in her new role of EU President should have presented that much common sense?

Oh no. Be sure – instead – that the next militarist campaign will promote the idea that the military – together with ever more authoritarian but allegedly citizen-protecting governments, border controls and fences, laws limiting people’s freedoms and movements between and inside states, more surveillance and emergency laws – will be our real Saviour. Defender. Protector. From both climate change and corona.

And the propaganda machines will continue to euphemistically call such societies civilian and democracies and help them antagonize “dictatorships”.

Just think back on how September 11 has harmed the world because of the US “victim” overexploitation of it for its Global War On Terror.

My – admittedly – nasty peace mind tells me that the only real enemy we have is the blind belief in militarism. And that that is a larger threat to all of us than the economic crisis, climate change and COVID-19. * This article was originally published in and Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors. [IDN-InDepthNews – 18 March 2020]

Image credit: The Transnational

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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