US and NATO troops set off on a high profile military road trip to check out the roads around north Eastern Europe, and reassure locals concerned about Russian aggression.
Also, drivers is Spain, Luxembourg and Finland are reminded that spring has not yet sprung. Arguments are polished ahead of the German foreigner toll’s all-important parliamentary session on Thursday. Tragedy strikes Turkey’s landmark Izmit Bay Bridge. More concessions reported on upcoming Exit Checks.
WATCH OUT FOR THE ‘DRAGOON RIDE’
High profile military manoeuvre designed to check out the roads and reassure Eastern Europe.
Three separate columns of mainly Stryker Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV) – with helicopter and jet fighter air support – converge in Prague next Monday after ten days and 1,100 miles through the Baltic States, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Called ‘Dragoon Ride’, the high profile military road trip is part of ‘Operation Atlantic Resolve’, a series of US Army-backed training exercises in Eastern Europe in response to the apparently Russia-backed fighting in Ukraine.
‘Dragoon Ride is a highly-visible demonstration of U.S. commitment to its NATO allies and demonstrates NATO’s ability to move military forces freely across allied borders in close cooperation,’ says the US Army.
Such armaments would normally be transported by rail but, as well as giving NATO forces the opportunity to mix with locals at stops along the way, sussing out the roads is an intrinsic part of the operation.
According to the US Defense Report, ‘The most impressive feature of the Stryker is its ability to use roads to safely transport a massive amount of infantry across vast distances in a relatively efficient manner rather than transport them via rail which can be susceptible to strategic long range missile attacks.’
Not everybody is enthusiastic. A group in Prague has set up a Facebook page called ‘Tanks no Thanks’ with some nattily designed road signs.
Meanwhile, the governor of South Moravia in the Czech Republic – a member of the ruling CSSD Social Democrat party – complained last week about American soldiers ‘blocking the roads’ after the government reportedly authorised the exercise without a debate in parliament.
Dragoon Ride is scheduled to end on Wednesday 1 April at the Rose Barracks in Vilseck northern Bavaria.
roundup: GERMANY. Ahead of the parliamentary vote on the ‘foreigner toll’ this Thursday, transport minister Alexander Dobrindt told his party conference in Bavaria on Saturday that the toll ‘would finally grant fairness on German roads’ according to Dw.de. Dobrindt’s legislation is widely expected to pass. Opponents’ last hope is that the President will refuse to sign it into law. Meanwhile, motoring association ADAC, a staunch critic of the toll since the beginning, has set out its key objections: foreign drivers already pay for the roads via fuel and other taxes it says; it doubts the revenue will be high enough to pay for any improvements; the proceeds are not anyway ring-fenced for road maintenance; and, if the EU forces the government to withdraw the domestic rebate, German drivers will end up paying more. TURKEY. A Japanese engineer working on the Izmit Bay Bridge apparently commit suicide after holding himself responsible for a steel rope which snapped on Saturday. The 51 year old man’s body was found this morning says Hurriyet Daily News. The bridge, set to be the world’s fourth longest suspension bridge at 2.7km, is on the route of a new motorway between Istanbul and Izmir which will eventually cut the journey time from nine hours to just three and a half. EXIT CHECKS. Just one in five cars will be inspected at Eurotunnel reported The Times on Saturday, just a few days after Home Secretary Theresa May told MPs she was possibly considering an exemption for coach parties. The government’s new ‘count them all in, count them all out’ border regime, due to start on 8 April, seems to be unravelling fast, fully in line with operators’ predictions that the checks were too time consuming, and the introduction has been too rushed.