US, European Military Commanders Possibly Exposed to Virus
BERLIN (March 10, 2020) — At least two top European military commanders tested positive for the new coronavirus after a conference on an American military base in Germany, and the commander of US Army Europe has isolated himself in case he also was exposed, officials said Tuesday.
Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli and several staff members from the US garrison in the German city of Wiesbaden went into self-isolation “out of an abundance of caution and following recommended protocols,” US Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Monday.
The possible exposure occurred at a meeting Friday at a land forces commander’s conference that US Army Europe hosted in Wiesbaden, spokesman John Tomassi confirmed Tuesday.
Tomassi would not say who was thought to have been carrying the virus at the time of the conference, but two participants have since said they tested positive for it.
The infection was commander of Poland’s armed forces, Gen. Jaroslaw Mika, was found infected once he returned home, the Polish Defense Ministry said.
The ministry said Mika, 57, feels well and that everyone with him on the trip to Wiesbaden has been quarantined.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, though for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
According to the World Health Organization, people with mild COVID-19 disease recover in about two weeks and those with more severe illnesses may take three to six weeks to recover, but the vast majority of patients will recover.
Italy’s RAI television quoted Italian army Chief of Staff General Salvatore Farina saying he also was “fine” after testing positive for the virus upon his return from the conference.
“I am in isolation in my apartment, in compliance with the directives issued by the government authorities and with the health protocols,” Farina said.
He said authorities were looking to identify people with whom he had contact in the past few days.
The coronavirus outbreak was not an agenda item of the annual gathering in Germany, but it came up in the context of how to protect the thousands of Americans and other troops gathering in Europe for the Defender Europe 20 exercise, Tomassi said.
“Right now, there’s no impact to Defender 20 that we have determined,” he said. “But that could change any day, and we’re monitoring and continuing to evaluate the situation.”
The US Army Europe-hosted conference in Wiesbaden brought together 24 senior military representatives from NATO, the European Union, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Georgia, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Romania and the United States.
Monika Scislowska in Poland, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this story.
Cancel All Military Exercises in Europe
(March 12, 2020) — The military exercise Cold Response in Norway with 14,000 soldiers from several NATO countries, Finland and Sweden has been cancelled. Those in charge of the exercise were late to respond to a case of coronavirus infection while Finland decided quickly to take back their military.
This exercise is part of the many NATO-connected exercises taking place this spring and summer. While civil society closed down in country after country, exercises such as Defender 20 will be carried out according to the latest information. Bigger demonstrations, meetings and much else are forbidden in many places while the military want to carry on their training for war.
The situation shows clearly how Europe — by starting an arms race and militarisation of society — is incapable of addressing the vulnerability of today’s society.
We say: “Stop Defender 20, Aurora 20 and other large-scale military exersizes in Europe. End rearmament and invest in peace, welfare, health and the environment.
A Call for Action: Cancel All Military Exercises in Europe
Aktivisterforfed / Activists For Peace
KRISTIANSTAD, Sweden (March 12, 2020) — We call for cancellation of all large-scale military exercises in Europe. To continue carrying out the biggest combination of training of military in a war situation in 25 years is damaging our capacity of addressing the Corona crisis. From the Arctic Sea along the border of Russia all the way to Georgia, this combination of simultaneous exercises under names as Defender 20 in Central and Eastern Europe and Aurora 20 in Sweden must be stopped.
The exercise Cold Response 2020 in Norway — with 14,000 soldiers from Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden UK and USA — was cancelled March 11. It was announced by Lieutenant General Rune Jakobsen, Chief of the operational staff at the Joint Operative Headquarters at a press conference were he stated: “What is new since yesterday is that the coronavirus is out of control in society. We want to preserve the armed forces’ ability to fight so that we are able to support society in the complex period that will follow.”
This response came late. When the exercise already had started, a soldier tested positive for Coronavirus on March 5. Finland withdrew their soldiers by March 8.
Countries like China, Singapore and South Korea show that it is possible to stop the growth of the number of people infected by the coronavirus by acting fast and decisively. Unfortunately, Italy and some other countries did not act quickly. Today, it is not the European Union but China that is helping Italy by sending medical experts and offering 10,000 pulmonary ventilators, two million face masks, and 20,000 protective suits.
After a conversation with his Chinese colleague Wang Yi, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio stated that “Our country will remember who has been at our side in a time of crisis. Chinese doctors were the first [to treat the virus] and they can bring their experience.”
Wang said that” “Although China itself still has a great demand for medical materials, we will overcome the difficulties and offer material aid, including face-masks, to Italy, and increase exports of materials and equipment to meet Italy’s urgent need.”
We call for a change in the way Europe addresses vulnerability. Rather than starting an arms race and fomenting enemy images, we see the need of cooperation across borders. What we need is peace and welfare to address the common threats to our health, social security and global environment. Not as Western State leaders at the Munich security conferences making China and Russia their adversary.
The large-scale exercises — bringing together tens of thousands of soldiers from different countries as part of a drastic increase in military expenditure — show how out-of-touch with today’s realities the present policies are.
These exercises not only pose and immediate threat — in terms of risk for disseminating the corona virus — they are also a misuse of our common resources for addressing the problems in the world today.
What we need is not further escalation and polarization between West and East but addressing social, health and environmental concerns of importance to all of humanity.
This is why we say: “Stop Defender 20, Aurora 20 and other large-scale military exercises in Europe. End rearmament and invest in peace, welfare, health and the environment.”
If you want to join in on our call to cancel all military exercises in Europe, please contact Activists for Peace.
Tord Björk, Götgatan 7 A, 29133 Kristianstad, Sweden. firstname.lastname@example.org, skype: tordbjork. No to War — No to NATO. www.no-to-nato.org, email@example.com
References and Links
• Activists for Peace. Blog in English: https://activistsforpeace.wordpress.com
• Blog in Swedish: https://aktivisterforfred.wordpress.com
• Facebook-page: https://www.facebook.com/aktivisterforfred
• Our international cooperation partner Prague Spring 2 on Facebook:
• NATO’s official information about Defender Europe 2020:
• Hudson, Kate: “US to practice invasion in Europe,” Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, 10 February 2020.
• Wagner, Jürgen: “Großmanöver Defender 2020” (In German). IMI, 10 January 2020.
• Official information about Aurora20 from Swedish Armed forces:
• Görgü, Kemal, Nordlund, Harald and Sevéus Harald: “Krigsförberedelser eller fredspolitik?” (IN Swedish). Uppsala Nya Tidning, debatt, 23 February 2020
• Woody, Christopher. “Finland pulled troops from an Arctic military exercise with the US and 8 other countries over coronavirus concerns,” Business Insider, 8 March 2020.
• Bakkemo Danilov, Peder: “Cold Response 2020 cancelled.” High North News, 11 March 2020.
• Nielsen, Thomas: “Norway cancels Cold Response due to coronavirus outbreak,” The Barents Observer, 11 March 2020.
• Boffey, Daniel: “Italy criticises EU for being slow to help over coronavirus epidemic,” The Guardian, 11 March 2020.
• CGTN “Italy Criticizes EU for not responding its call for help, ‘only China responded bilaterally’,” CGTN, 12 March 2020.
• Hume, Tim: “China Is Now Sending Doctors, Masks and Hazmat Suits to Help Italy With Its Coronavirus Outbreak.” Vice News, 11 march 2020.
• Wu, Wendy: “China sends team of medical experts, gear to help Italy fight coronavirus,” South China Morning Post, 11 March 2020.
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