Protesters meet US military convoys streaming through Europe ‘preparing for war’
Dozens of US military convoys will be hogging Europe’s roadways this week as part of an exercise designed to improve transportation logistics on the continent in case of war. But not all locals are happy about it.
Destined for the three Baltic states and Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary, the convoys are part of a brigade of 3,300 US troops, who along with their 2,500 pieces of equipment recently docked in Antwerp, Belgium. Their arrival in Europe is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, Washington’s ongoing response to the Ukraine crisis and Crimea’s reunification with Russia in 2014.
"Sometimes what is old is new again, and that is coming in here," Maj. Gen. Steven Shapiro, commander of 21st Theater Sustainment Command, which supports US military operations in Europe, told reporters earlier this month. "Antwerp and Rotterdam were major ports when we were operating during the Cold War… We are coming back to Antwerp in a big way."
The military hardware will move across Europe via river barge, rail, and road. Officials described the deployment as a large-scale exercise focusing on improving logistics skills that would be needed in case war breaks out in Europe.
The US troop movement across Europe has been described as one of the largest of its kind since the end of the Cold War – and, true to tradition, has already faced opposition from unwelcoming locals.
US convoys traveling through Germany on their way to Poland have faced the discontent of locals – and governments.
"I think that it doesn't help us in the long run if tanks drive up and down both sides of the border," Dietmar Woidke, Brandenburg's state premier, said earlier this year. However, a government spokesman took a more neutral approach to the troop movements in a statement released on Monday.
Government concerns aside, a few dozen protesters were waiting for US military vehicles as they traveled east along Brandenburg’s country roads.
"We didn't want them just to pass by without any opposition," Diana Golze, the labor and social affairs minister for the state of Brandenburg, who attended the demonstration, told DW. "We think this isn't a good time for the relocation of troops to the border between Poland and Russia… There needs to be a diplomatic path, and not just saber-rattling."
A local who attended the small demonstration with a sign reading “Amis go home” – a slightly pejorative term for Americans – told the German outlet: “We never experienced the Russians having evil intentions. And now trying to stir us all up against each other is not in the interests of German people — neither the people in the west or the east. There are other powers behind this that want us to fight each other.”
Another protester told DW: “I’m here to stop the madness of American soldiers being sent to the Russian border, but apparently hardly anyone is interested around here.”
The eastward-bound convoys follow 2015’s ‘Dragoon Ride’ exercises, in which around 120 vehicles, mainly Stryker AFVs, drove 1,770 kilometers through Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, and the Czech Republic, with their final destination being Germany. Similar exercises were held a year later.
During their maneuvers, a number of convoys were confronted by protesters in cities and towns across Germany and the Czech Republic. At the time, Czechs were even reminded that throwing tomatoes or eggs at the US vehicles was punishable with up to three years in prison.
One particularly resourceful Czech resorted to a different tactic: He dropped his trousers and ‘mooned’ a passing convoy. The former lieutenant in the Czech Armed Forces said in an interview this week that he plans on organizing new acts of public disobedience to protest Prague’s continued culpability in US military actions that threaten European security.
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