by Alvis Petus, Latvia
The exercises are expected to last about five months, taking place mostly in Germany, Poland and the Baltic states. US European Command said in October that the mission aims to “to build readiness within the [NATO] alliance and deter potential adversaries.”
Defender Europe 2020 has sparked major protests in Germany. Local population in the Baltic States also expresses dissatisfaction with the exercise. While the exercise officially aims to monitor and check the viability of logistics in a time of emergency, activists are concerned by the possible consequences of Defender Europe 2020.
Among such possible undesirable results are:
damage to roads and other infrastructure;
low-altitude flights of military aircraft over the cities and noise pollution;
damage to gas pipelines and water wells, soil contamination and water pollution;
large-scale deforestation and extinction of endangered species of birds and animals;
negative impact on tourism development in the hosting countries, as well as traffic restrictions;
falling of shells outside of the designated area which poses a direct threat to the local population.
These are only few reasons why locals oppose such major military exercise as Defender Europe 2020 on their territories.
Protesters are also concerned by the sheer amount of old military equipment being brought into the country which will remain in the countries, turning them into warehouses of old equipment.
Thus, activists protested against the arrival of US soldiers and military equipment in Germany for the ‘Defender Europe 2020’ military exercises with NATO forces, in Bremerhaven on February 22. They marched from the centre of Bremerhaven towards the Kaiserhafen docks, where the US ‘ARC Endurance’ carrier had arrived to deliver the first batch of US military equipment for the military exercise. Footage shows protesters marching with banners reading “Stop Defender 2020” and “No to confrontation with Russia.”
Many understand that U.S. military activity has already ruined the security situation in Europe and even expect its worsening. Next demonstration against War Maneuver Defender 2020 is planned on March 21 in Duisburg. The peace movement all over the world unite their efforts to prevent further militarizing of Europe and protest Defender Europe 2020 exercise. Among them is the network No to war – no to NATO. (https://www.no-to-nato.org/defender-2020/)
“It worries us that there are so many US soldiers here now with heavy military equipment, going through Germany. And we are here for peace because for us there is nothing more important,” said one protester.
It is known that more than 30,000 troops from 18 countries will participate in the exercises, according to the US military. The main activities will take place in April and May across 10 countries, among them Poland and the Baltic states. Around 20,000 pieces of equipment will additionally be shipped from five American seaports.
Skepticism about the mass military exercises is also caused by the fact, that our days more troops die during training than in combat operations. The number of on-duty training related-mishaps resulting in injury or death has spiked over the years of late. These are fatal vehicle training accidents, injury related accidents, aviation accidents, and violation of national law by foreign military. It makes an unsafe environment for the local population and troops themselves and results in protests and dissatisfaction with the national governments and military activity.
The more so, such a massive movement of troops and equipment throughout Europe could lead to further coronavirus spread which is the main threat, existing today in the region. The safety of the local population and all exercise participants should be of utmost importance.
Thus, throughout the exercise, further protests around the involved countries are anticipated.