Accidental tourist: ‘EU Schengen zone for NATO may clash with European sovereignty’

Accidental tourist: ‘EU Schengen zone for NATO may clash with European sovereignty’
If NATO troops were in a war, they would have the freedom of movement with or without a Schengen-style agreement, says Elsa Rassbach, from the German affiliate of War Resisters International.

Sweden is holding its biggest military exercises in more than 20 years. Called 'Aurora 17' it is taking place on an island in the Baltic Sea.

Sweden's Aurora 17 military exercise involves 19,000 Swedish troops, as well as 1,435 soldiers from the US. Sweden, which is not a NATO member, will also host personnel from around 40 government agencies from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Lithuania, Norway and the United States to practice active deterrence against “a foreign enemy.”

Meanwhile, the US is also building up its presence in Poland with more than a thousand military vehicles and an infantry division as part of the existing NATO force in Eastern Europe.

US generals say the move is in response to exercises between Russia and Belarus, adding that a deal is needed to allow the free movement of troops across Europe, similar to the EU's open border 'Schengen' agreement.

That would allow US units to deploy on NATO members' territories without the countries' permission.

RT:  Is there any threat to Europe from the Russian side? Why do you think Sweden is hosting these military games aimed to prepare for a possible Russian attack?

Elsa Rassbach: I would have to ask ‘necessary for what?’ If Europe wants to have war games regularly and take a kind of threatening posture toward Russia or feels that rattling sabers is going to bring security and peace, I think that’s wrong. I also believe they only need this Schengen provision to do military exercises. If they were in an actual war, they would have the freedom of movement and all of these restrictions, which are just normal restrictions that any of us go through as tourists or whatever – going into another country, as it is now – the different European countries want to check out who is coming in, who is coming out; what kind of equipment is coming in and out, and that seems reasonable to me. I suppose if you want to actually show a really strong military posture, and you think that is a way to peace, maybe I could see why they might want to do that.

RT:  The Swedish Chief of Defense Micael Byden said the drills are being held with an eye on Russia, because, ‘Russia is the country that affects security in Europe right now with its actions – the annexation of the Crimea and continued battles in eastern Ukraine.’ Could security be brought to Europe by planning a war, do you think?

ER: I don’t think security is brought by planning to go to war, or by rattling sabers. Security would be brought by bringing Russia into a security arrangement with all of Europe as has been done with some institutions, like the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe). That would be the direction to go. If one wants to build up a sense of hostility toward Russia – that reduces the security in Europe in my opinion.

RT:  In your opinion, do all the NATO members agree with this kind of military action, which includes the idea of introducing a form of a Schengen free-travel zone across the EU?

ER: NATO, of course, is headed up very much by the US. So if NATO wants to do something, that means generally that the US wants to do something. If they want to move troops quickly across Europe, I am not sure that every European country even necessarily agrees with the mission sometimes, they’ll go along. There are many things that have interfered with some of the original sovereignty in Europe. Some of them have been perhaps positive; many would see the EU as certainly positive step. But a militarized form of unification is not good.

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