Daily Host Nation Stories July 31, 2020
Number of new infections in Germany again at a high level
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reports 870 new confirmed coronavirus infections. The total number of cases in Germany thus rises to 208,698, and the number of deaths increases by seven to 9141. (Robert Koch Institute, July 31)
Retailers ask consumers for more discipline in corona rules
In view of the rising number of infections, the retail association HDE is calling for more discipline in complying with the corona rules. A second wave of the pandemic must be avoided with all available means, says HDE President Josef Sanktjohanser. The corona crisis will cost retail companies in the non-food sector around 40 billion euros in lost sales. This could mean the end for 50,000 retail facilities in Germany. “If the first wave of the pandemic is already causing such dramatic consequences in the retail sector, I would not like to imagine a second one,” warns Sanktjohanser. “For many retailers, there would be no chance of escaping bankruptcy if restrictions were imposed again, or even a second phase of the lockdown.”(Handelsblatt, July 31)
Public Health authorities fear a shortage of staff with second wave
The public health authorities say Germany is not prepared for a second corona wave. “For a second pandemic wave, the health offices are far too short of staff,” the chairwoman of the Federal Association of Physicians of the Public Health Service, Ute Teichert, stated to the newspapers of the Funke media group. “With the increasing number of infections, a huge problem is heading our way.” The public health authorities could not wait until the planned measures of the Federal Government to strengthen the public health service came into effect. “We need a short-term solution. We need to know where Health Services can get reinforcements in case of emergency.” Specifically, she spoke out in favor of a nationwide register of volunteers – like a job exchange which, in an emergency, would recruit employees who were already trained. (Funke Media Group, July 31)
Corona mandatory test comes too late
The corona tests for people returning from high-risk areas, which will be obligatory as of next week, will come too late for most of the German states, according to Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder. He told ARD television that Bavaria is still well within the time limit because the school holidays there have only just begun. “But you are right … In my opinion it’s too late for all of Germany.” (Ntv, July 31)
Three Spanish holiday regions now considered risky
In view of the sharp rise in the number of corona infections in Spain, the Federal Foreign Office is now warning against tourist travel to three regions of Germany’s most popular holiday destination. According to a statement by the Federal Foreign Office, Catalonia, with its tourist metropolis Barcelona and the beaches of the Costa Brava, as well as the regions of Aragón and Navarre in the interior to the west, are affected by the formal travel warning, but not Majorca or the Canary Islands.(Ntv, July 31)
What is it about the allegations of the U.S. President?
BERLIN. The U.S. is planning to significantly reduce its military presence in Germany. Nearly 12,000 soldiers stationed here are to be permanently withdrawn – from a current total of about 36,000. This was announced by the government in Washington in the middle of the week. Stuttgart will be particularly affected: The city is to lose the European Command, and possibly AFRICOM, as well. U.S. President Donald Trump openly presents the move as an act of punishment for Germany.
After the decision, Trump once again described Germany as a “defaulting debtor”. The country had not paid its contributions to NATO. “Germany owes NATO many billions of dollars. Why should we leave all those troops there?” Trump is also convinced that Germany is unfair to the United States. He is also upset that Germany gets gas from the Baltic Nord Stream 2. In his opinion, it is unacceptable that Germany pays a lot of money for gas imports from Russia, but at the same time wants to be protected against Russia by the U.S.
Unlike Trump, Esper tries to present the action as the result of strategic considerations. It is in fact about a stronger deterrent against Moscow and more flexibility for the U.S. forces. Of the 12,000 soldiers who are to leave Germany, 6,400 are expected to return to the USA. From there, however, they are to be sent in a rotating system to regions such as the Baltic or the Black Sea region – in other words, to Russia’s neighborhood. Another 5,600 soldiers from Germany will be permanently stationed to other NATO partners such as Italy, Poland and Belgium. The European Command is to move from Stuttgart to Mons in Belgium, where NATO’s military headquarters are already located. A new location for the Africa Command has not yet been determined. U.S. politicians assume that the plans weaken rather than strengthen NATO. Republican Senator Mitt Romney spoke of a “grave error”.
What about Trump’s accusation that Germany owes billions of dollars to NATO?
That’s nonsense. The NATO States together bear the costs of community facilities such as their command centers and headquarters in Brussels. However, that accounts for only a small part of military expenditure, and Germany is not in default here either. Each country has its own defense budget from which it pays its national armed forces.
So what does Trump’s criticism refer to?
It’s about NATO’s so-called two-percent target: two percent of the respective economic output is regarded as the benchmark for national defense budgets. Anyone who fails to achieve this value should at least come close to it by 2024. Of course, every state is free to spend more than two percent on its armed forces. Only a minority of the 30 NATO states already meet the target. According to a list drawn up by NATO, in addition to the U.S., last year this probably included Great Britain, Greece, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and the three Baltic republics. According to this, Germany achieved a value of 1.38 percent – considerably more than in previous years, but less than France, Croatia or Portugal, for example. However, it’s curious that Belgium, which is to become the new home of the Stuttgart European Command, spent less than one percent of its economic output on defense, according to NATO calculations.
How did NATO’s two percent target come about?
The debate about appropriate financing of common security has been accompanying the military alliance for decades. The first agreement on the two percent target was reached at the NATO summit in Prague in 2002. At that time, the US President was George W. Bush, the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD). At the NATO summit in Wales in autumn 2014 – after the beginning of the war in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea by Russia – the formulation was agreed according to which national defense expenditure should move towards the target of two percent within ten years. During that time, former U.S. President Barack Obama and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) attended the summit.
Is Germany prepared to spend more on its Armed Forces?
That is very controversial. Security experts raise their opinion that regardless of pressure of the current U.S. president, Germany must do more for its own defense and that of its partners. The Federal Government officially stands by the two-percent target. This is especially true for Chancellor and Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU). However, the German coalition is not in agreement. For the Social Democrats, the goal is not a priority. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, July 31)
U.S. Commands in Stuttgart
When Curtis Scaparrotti officially took over command of the American troops in Europe in Stuttgart-Vaihingen in May 2016, the USA sent its defense minister. Three years later, when Scaparrotti gave up his seat in rotation for Todd Wolters, only the Secretary of State for the Army came from Washington. It is possible that Air Force General Todd Wolters is now the one who has to give the order to pack crates at the Stuttgart headquarters of the US Armed Forces. EUCOM is responsible for the entire European area, from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, from the Atlantic to the Caucasus. Every movement of the approximately 60,000 US soldiers in this area is tracked from Stuttgart. Almost 1000 soldiers and civilians work in the Patch Barracks themselves. The implementation of NATO resolutions is coordinated here, as are their own missions. EUCOM commander Todd Wolters, like his predecessors, is the NATO military Commander-in-chief – and in this capacity more often in Belgium than in Stuttgart, where the Headquarter’s new location is proposed to be.
AFRICOM, the EUCOM counterpart responsible for the African continent (excluding Egypt), is also proposed to move. The command is located at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart-Möhringen, where more than 1,500 soldiers and civilians work. Humanitarian aid measures and assistance in coping with disasters are as much a part of the command’s tasks as military strikes. The U.S. attack on Libya in 2011 was coordinated from Stuttgart. In Möhringen, General Stephen J. Townsend currently leads the Command. He is the 5th Commander-in-chief of AFRICOM since October 1, 2007. At the Stuttgart location, he could be the last. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, July 31)
U.S. troop withdrawal: Will there be more room for apartments in Stuttgart?
STUTTGART. Russia has reacted with satisfaction to the plans of U.S. President Donald Trump to withdraw 12,000 soldiers from Germany. “The fewer U.S. soldiers there are in the European continent, the calmer it will be in Europe,” said Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. In the USA, Trump is meeting with resistance to this – also in his own party. Whether these plans will be implemented, remains questionable.
If the plans would be implemented, about 25,000 members of the U.S. Armed forces, civilians and dependents would leave Stuttgart, as reported. The head of the Stuttgart Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Johannes Schmalzl, fears that an important economic factor will then be lost: “The stationed troops are consumers at the same time, they invest in goods and use services in the Stuttgart Region”. Schmalzl is also worried about German-American relations. Sabine Hagmann, head of the Baden-Württemberg trade association, calls the withdrawal a “loss for the retail trade”. The soldiers brought a lot of purchasing power. “Although, they naturally had a lot of offers at the installations to cover their needs”. However, the longer they were in the country, the more interested they generally became in local customs and habits. “Strolling around Breuninger, for example, is something Americans like to do.” That’s why the withdrawal particularly affects Sindelfingen, Böblingen and the Stuttgart districts of Möhringen and Vaihingen.
The Vaihingen district leader Kai Jehle-Mungenast was surprised how concrete the plans are already. He would personally regret a withdrawal. “We have a good friendly contact and I feel that this is an enrichment for the district”, he said. The planned withdrawal is not good news for the retail and catering trade, he said, as some of the restaurants were built because of the presence of the Americans. “In the tavern and the Irish Pub, American is spoken almost exclusively.” Due to tax rebates – deliveries and services from German companies to NATO troops stationed in Germany are exempt from sales tax under certain conditions – shopping on German territory has its appeal for many people. Local craftsmen also benefit from orders on the barracks grounds. Last but not least, a deduction would be a challenge for Corso Cinema International.
The truth is, however, that there are also critical voices in the district. For example, a withdrawal could alleviate the housing shortage – on the one hand because of the potential of conversion areas, on the other hand because private living space would be freed up that had previously been used by members of the army. The Stuttgart tenants’ association argues similarly. Chairman Rolf Gaßmann sees the announced withdrawal as a great opportunity in the fight against the housing shortage in the city. “If the idea already comes from the Americans, you don’t have to cry and chatter your teeth”, he said. The association estimates that there is currently a shortage of 30,000 apartments in Stuttgart. The well developed military areas with more than 180 hectares could provide solutions. Gaßmann, however, accuses the mayor of being inactive and therefore is very pessimistic: “I did not experience Mr. Kuhn as a visionary during his term of office. Meanwhile, the discussion on strategic consequences has begun at federal level. CDU politician Friedrich Merz now sees Europe as having a duty to do more for its own security and speaks of another “wake-up call”. SPD defense politician Wolfgang Hellmich, however, does not consider the announced withdrawal to be of great importance for the security of Germany and Europe. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, July 31)
Stuttgart by the sea during Corona times
STUTTGART. Sunbathing in Tuscany, diving off the Côte d’Azur or partying on Ibiza – the coronavirus is putting a damper on the holiday plans of many people this year. The third edition of the summer festival “Stuttgart am Meer” at the Stadtpalais is coming right on time. Starting this Saturday, August 1 until September 13, the museum garden will be transformed into a summer oasis. This year, during the Corona times, the festival’s motto is called “Kopf über Wasser” (Head above water). A landscape of dunes promises a holiday feeling without any fear of Corona – with which the creators cleverly trick the virus. “There were strong doubts about implementing ‘Stuttgart by the Sea’ this year,” reported Museum Director Torben Giese on Thursday. But a clever idea saved the day: “Instead of a festival with markets and action days, we decided to create an environment that cleverly keeps visitors at a distance. Thus, despite the corona, Stuttgart’s residents can still flap under the sun on a yellow wooden dune at the Stadtpalais, stretch their feet in the water and imagine, while enjoying a cool drink, that the noise of the federal highway is the sound of waves. Stuttgart’s residents should feel like they’re on holiday in the middle of the city center – without a “bad corona conscience”, says the museum director. On a smaller scale, there will also be concerts, yoga and a handicraft show in the dunes.Of course, the Stadtpalais cannot offer the people of Stuttgart a real sea – and elements such as the surf wave, the water slide or the skate track, which will not be able to take place due to Corona. However, there will be small water pools, sandboxes and sunshades available for this purpose. Deck chairs, hammocks and a beach bar, which will also provide a holiday atmosphere.
“This year, Stuttgart by the sea is not like any other open festival,” says Giese. To get a sunny spot, visitors have to book a “dune” in advance on the Internet or at the Infopoint. Barbecue, parasol and table are included. Those who want to have a dune and a pool all to themselves or in pairs for just under two hours, for example, pay a fee of three euros. The price also includes cushions, games and a sand rise. Those who feel like having bratwurst, steaks or vegetarian grilled food can book food packages for five to ten euros in addition. (Stuttgarter Zeitung, July 31)