GERMANY, Damme. In Poland and the Baltic States, the largest military operation in 25 years will start in February. Pig farmers demand consistent biosecurity measures.
In the manoeuvre 'US Defender Europe 2020' NATO is practising the transfer of large US troops across the Atlantic to Eastern Europe. In Germany, extensive troop movements are therefore expected. The pig industry views the military exercise with unease. "In view of the high risk of African swine fever (ASP) spreading, we expressly appeal to the preventive measures," says the German Pig Farmers' Association (ISN). With a troop movement of such magnitude, "biosecurity is the be-all and end-all".
Various cases of ASF in recent months and years have shown that the virus can spread suddenly hundreds of kilometres away from previous ASF crisis herds. According to the ISN, the manoeuvre exercise is extraordinarily critical because Poland and the Baltic States are particularly hard hit ASP crisis areas. Therefore, it was absolutely necessary to inform foreign troops about the ASP risk and to strictly observe hygiene measures.
It is planned that during the exercise, which will last several months, 20,000 US soldiers will be transferred from the USA to Eastern Europe. The aim of the maneuver is to practice rapid troop deployment and cooperation between several nations in the event of war. According to the Federal Ministry of Defense, a total of 37,000 soldiers from 18 nations will be involved. This makes the major exercise the largest NATO maneuver in 25 years.
From February to May, the troops will arrive in Western Europe with 20,000 pieces of cargo and then set off for Poland and the Baltic States. Due to its geographical location, Germany serves as the main axis for the vehicle convoys. Once the target areas have been reached, the troops will start their return transport. The manoeuvre should be completed in June.
In view of the currently rampant ASF in large parts of Eastern Europe, the risk of the virus being spread by the large troop movements is very high, the ISN states. The Bundeswehr has been informed and sensitized for prevention measures for years through the Federal Ministry of Defense. For example, tanks of the Bundeswehr have already been disinfected on a large scale in past NATO exercises to combat epidemics.