Saturday, June 6, 2020

Zee Germans Are Nervous

Trump continues to do everything possible to make Vladimir Putin ecstatic, and it's coming at the cost of every other nation on earth, including the US. The latest obvious pro-Russian move: Trump is withdrawing a third of our troops in Germany to punish Chancellor Merkel and the EU.

President Donald Trump’s directive to pull 9,500 troops from Germany hits home hard for friends of America like Edgar Knobloch, whose Bavarian town has been home to U.S. service members for seven decades.

Like Chancellor Angela Merkel, the mayor of Grafenwoehr was caught off guard. It’s the latest sign of the U.S.’s deterioration of ties with a loyal ally, one that not only hosts most of its troops in Europe but also has seen them fuel the local economy.

This medieval town, with a tiny population dwarfed by the size of the American military presence, shows just what a shadow the U.S. has cast over Europe after World War II and what its retreat symbolizes in the eyes of locals and international observers. Another troop cut would signal a further break with a legacy of two generations.

Located near the former East German border, Grafenwoehr is a place where overseas U.S. military infrastructure and community bonds survived the end of the Cold War. Locals celebrate Thanksgiving and enjoy spare ribs. Every year, they turn out by the thousands for the German-American Folk Festival to share beer, bratwurst and country music with the roughly 11,000 U.S. troops based at NATO’s biggest training area in Europe.

“They’re completely integrated here,” Knobloch, 55, said in an interview. “Restaurants are bilingual. There are mixed marriages, mixed families. You often hear from the older members of the community: ‘The Americans liberated us.’”

There hasn’t been much nostalgia between Trump and Merkel, who have clashed repeatedly over trade and Germany’s slow timetable for meeting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s defense spending target. Last month, Merkel snubbed Trump on his plan to hold an in-person Group of Seven summit in June which he’d like Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend.

While Trump has taken aim at Germany’s economic might, Merkel — the longest-serving G-7 leader after 15 years in power — has stared him down across a broad front, from defending the rules-based global economy to policy disputes such as defense spending. A physicist by training, Merkel also contrasted with Trump in her science-based approach to reopening Germany from its coronavirus lockdown.

Lawmakers and government officials in Berlin criticized Trump’s troop decision, which would cut U.S. forces in Germany by slightly more than a quarter, as a snub.

“These plans demonstrate once again that the Trump administration neglects a central element of leadership: the involvement of alliance partners in the decision-making process,” Johann Wadephul, deputy head of Merkel’s parliamentary caucus, said in an emailed statement.

Trump’s decision and the way it was communicated hint at how much Germany’s relations have cooled with a U.S. president who has publicly questioned NATO’s value. By mid-day Saturday, the German government had no official word from Washington on the drawdown plan.

There's no doubt that the withdrawal is 100% related to Merkel rejecting Trump's ask to give Putin what he wants more than anything: back into the G-7 as the eighth member with his dictatorship given all the legitimacy in the world. Merkel said no, and Putin had juuuuuust the perfect suggestion to Donald if she turned him down, which of course Putin knew she would.  Let's not forget that when Donny was hiding in his bunker earlier this week, the person he called for advice was Vlad himself.

That's where the G-8 idea came from, and this is where the withdrawal idea came from, an idea to remind Germany that Russia is a lousy neighbor with the largest army in Europe still.

Besides, Vlad definitely wants a disgruntled German youth to question why the US is there, and maybe ask why Russia shouldn't be closer.

German neo-Nazis have been getting military-style training at camps run by a far-right Russian terrorist organization, German media reported Friday, in the latest sign of deepening international cooperation between white supremacist networks.

Citing intelligence sources, German news magazine Focus reported that the extremists had attended a camp held near Saint Petersburg, where they were shown how to use weapons and explosives, and received close combat training.

The training camp, known as Partizan, is run by the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), an ultranationalist, quasi-paramilitary organization which claims to be fighting for the “predominance of the white race.”

The U.S. government added RIM to its list of specially designated global terrorist groups in April — the first time it had taken such action against a white supremacist organization — saying it had “provided paramilitary-style training to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Europe.”

The Russian government considers RIM to be extremist, but has not banned the group.

The German extremists who attended the camp belonged to the youth wings of two fringe German political parties widely considered to be neo-Nazi movements: the National Democratic Party and The Third Path. The Focus report did not provide further details of their attendance at the camp, but said that extremists from Sweden and Finland had previously attended the camps and gone on to fight in pro-separatist militias in eastern Ukraine.

Experts told VICE News that the German attendance at the camp highlighted the growing cooperation between white supremacist groups internationally, as they sought to build relationships with allies in other countries.

“It signals that RIM is a critical node in the transnational white supremacy extremist movement,” said Mollie Saltskog, intelligence analyst at The Soufan Group. “RIM is going beyond networking and ideology, and is actually providing paramilitary training to individuals who adhere to this violent ideology."

Vlad is playing a very long game here and he figures he'll be around for a long, long time in order to see it through. And at the end of that game?

Well, let's just say a reconstituted Soviet Union is the least of our worries.

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