Host Nation Update, Feb. 17, 2022
COVID rules in Baden-Württemberg – Winfried Kretschmann explains gradual opening plan
Stuttgart – Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann (Greens) explained in the state parliament on Friday which conclusions Baden-Württemberg draws from the federal-state discussion. He reiterated that there should be easing, but at the same time warned against ill-considered steps: “Loosening yes, but don’t rush it.”
The tier system will be retained, but limit values will be raised. From Tuesday, the warning level will apply at a hospitalization incidence of 250, the alarm level at 390, and alarm level II will no longer apply. 280 intensive care beds are currently occupied, so according to Kretschmann, the warning level can be assumed on Tuesday.
In any case, the mask requirement will remain in public spaces, otherwise 3G instead of 2G applies in most areas – Kretschmann mentioned gastro, events and trade fairs in this context. When it came to clubs, he put a but behind basic opening options and spoke of strict conditions. He doesn’t say what that will be.
In addition, Kretschmann, who described himself as a “passionate carnival fool”, spoke about carnival traditions and raised hopes at this point: Events should be possible in consultation with the responsible local authorities under 3G conditions. Kretschmann had claimed the opposite on Thursday.
NON-COVID related news:
UKRAINE CRISIS – Biden fears Russian invasion in coming days
U.S. President Joe Biden fears a Russian invasion of Ukraine in the coming days, despite assurances from Moscow. Speaking in Washington on Thursday, Biden said the risk of an invasion is “very high,” and in his estimation it could happen “in the next couple of days.” Everything indicates that Russia is ready to attack Ukraine, he said.
There is also reason to believe that Moscow is involved in a false flag operation, which is the term used to artificially stage a pretext for an attack. The U.S. government accuses Russia of further increasing troops and equipment on its border with Ukraine, despite assurances from Moscow. Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said after consultations of NATO defense ministers in Brussels that while the Russians affirmed that they were withdrawing some of their forces after exercises were completed, “we don’t see that – quite the opposite.” He expressed, “We see them adding to the more than 150,000 troops they already have deployed along the border. Even in the last couple of days.” Austin further lamented, “We see some of these troops moving closer to the border. We see them flying in more fighter and support aircraft.” He added that Moscow is also increasing its military readiness in the Black Sea. “We even see that they are increasing their supplies of blood.” The minister stressed, “You don’t do such things without a reason. And certainly not when you’re in the process of packing your bags and going home.”
A senior U.S. government official had already said on Wednesday evening (local time) that in the “back days” Russia had brought some 7,000 additional troops near the Ukrainian border. U.S. government intelligence, meanwhile, showed that Russia’s announcement of a partial withdrawal was “false.” NATO and the British government had also already spoken of a Russian troop buildup instead of the announced partial withdrawal.
Austin on Thursday also addressed reports of escalating fighting in eastern Ukraine and warned against Russian provocation. “We’ve been saying for some time that the Russians could use such an action to justify a military conflict.” Reports of increasing shelling are therefore “worrying,” he said. Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine had previously accused each other of fueling fighting in the conflict zone. (Frankfurt, FAZ.net Feb 17, 2022)
U.S. Defense Secretary Austin travels to Brussels, Poland and Lithuania
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is traveling to Brussels, Poland and Lithuania in light of the worrisome situation in the Ukraine conflict. Austin will leave Tuesday to attend the NATO meeting of defense ministers in Brussels, the Pentagon announced Monday. Austin then plans to meet President Andrzej Duda and Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak in Poland.
Also planned is a visit to Powidz Air Base, where Austin wants to meet U.S. military and Polish troops. In Lithuania, Austin plans to meet with the country’s president, Gitanas Nauseda, among others. Also on the agenda there is a meeting with U.S. military personnel stationed in Lithuania.
The U.S. government had announced in early February the transfer of about 2000 troops to Europe. Last Friday, Austin had ordered the transfer of another 3000 soldiers at the behest of US President Joe Biden because of the tense situation. Tens of thousands of U.S. troops are stationed in Europe even outside times of crisis. Currently, according to the U.S. military, there are more than 80,000 soldiers in Europe, including about 35,000 in Germany. (Handelsblatt, Feb 17, 2022)
Böblingen-Stuttgart “Radschnellweg” (high-speed cycle path) At the last minute: green light given for building of bridge
Böblingen – The cycle bridge over Panzerstrasse can now be built. As an absolute exception, the local council has now allowed the trees that have to be felled for this project of the district to be reforested in a piece of forest in Aidlingen. In order not to jeopardize the rapid construction of the bridge, which will cost almost three million euros, the councils are moving away from the requirement made in 2016 to replace cleared forest on the Böblingen mark as well.
Time was pressing and the decision came at the last minute. For nature conservation reasons, tree felling is only allowed until February 28. A delay would have made bridge construction impossible this year, even though the structure, the city and district agree, is urgently needed. The heavily traveled Panzerstrasse is a dangerous obstacle for cyclists using the fast bike path between Böblingen and Stuttgart. Lord Mayor Stefan Belz reported “hectic times in the last three weeks.” These were, as reported, also not entirely free of displeasure. Böblingen felt pressured by the district with the ultimate request only a few weeks before the last possible felling date.
The fact that this will be anything but easy was explained by Frank Bader, head of the public works department. Forest cannot be created everywhere, was his message. The areas should be adjacent to existing forest, be owned by the city or district, agricultural areas and ecologically valuable meadows are out of the question for nature conservation reasons. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Feb 18)