Trident Juncture starts today, and though it’s puny compared to Russia’s Vostok 18 last month, it’s still the biggest NATO exercise since the Cold War. Today, 40,000 troops are gathering in Norway from 31 countries – the 29 NATO states plus Finland and Sweden.
Germany is sending 8,000 soldiers, 100 tanks and 2,000 vehicles. That brings Berlin’s total number of soldiers sent to participate in an international exercise this year to 12,000, three times as many as last year. That increase is because Germany will take the lead of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) next year.
Note the location; Norway is one of the five NATO member states to border on Russia. However, it’s not meant for any country in particular, said the head of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command, US Navy Admiral James Foggo, carefully. The exercise aims to “show NATO is capable to defend against any adversary. Not a particular country, anyone.” As in, Russia. And Moscow is displeased: In Minsk earlier this week, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu complained about the unprecedented scale of the exercise.
If a growing number of leaders had their way, Europe would have its own coordinated show of force. Six leading German thinkers, including philosopher and sociologist Jürgen Habermas, called for deeper integration of Europe’s foreign and security policy. That includes a pan-European army, among other ways to address the nationalism that threatens the European peace project. Their call goes beyond defense, to encompass shared budgetary and labor-market policy to make European unity credible – even if it means Germany paying more. Bring it on.
Back home, even the most distracted nightclub bouncer would refuse the fake ID created by a German journalist to test the security of a new internet-based bank. N26 is the toast of Germany’s fintech scene, a mobile bank that promises to take the flummery out of banking, with digital, cheap and modern services, unencumbered by the branch networks, admin and creaky IT we know and cherish from its rivals. So far, so good, except that N26’s “selfie validation procedure” doesn’t meet regulatory standards. Other problems have included ill-doers running fake job ads and using the info from unwitting applicants to open accounts. The fear is that terrorists and money launderers could capitalize on this. Regulators are digging in.
At the other end of the spectrum, brick-and-mortar banks are struggling. Deutsche Bank’s third-quarter figures show progress, thanks to cost-cutting. However, investors are wondering whether Germany’s largest bank has what it takes to grow. Commerzbank, meanwhile, its main rival, surprised the industry yesterday by putting in a non-binding bid for NordLB, an ailing state-owned bank. Both Deutsche and CoBa are struggling to come up with convincing strategies, and Berlin hopes consolidation could soon heal some of these woes.
What’s the right way to incentivize people to use less plastic? After the EU decided to phase out one-way items from straws to plates and cutlery, governments now need to introduce sticks and carrots to make companies think twice about single-use goods. It’s high time, as plastics are found in fish, salt, sugar and beer. The move comes a day after Austrian scientists found microplastics in stool samples from eight people around the world. The EU’s decision is part of a bid to stop pollution of the oceans. I remember the good old days when Welsh beaches only had the occasional glass bottle nestled amongst the seaweed. I’m pledging to slurp my cocktails through straws made of apple skins or bamboo, and raise my glass to better and more sustainable times.
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