Cancel all military exercises in Europe and the world after corona outbreak

Cancel all military exercises in Europe and the world after corona outbreak

March 13, 2020
Petition to
Kanzlerin der Bundesrepublik Deutschland Angela Merkel (CDU) and 7 others
Signatures: 2,417Next Goal: 2,500
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Why this petition matters

We call for cancellation of all large scale military exercises in Europe and elsewhere. To continue carrying out the largest combination of training of military in a war situation in 25 years is damaging our capacity of addressing the Corona (COVID-19) crisis. From the Arctic Sea along the border of Russia all the way to Georgia this combination of simultaneous exercises under names as Defender 20 in Central in Eastern Europe and Aurora 20 in Sweden must be stopped together with military exercises elsewhere.

The exercise Cold Response 2020 in Norway with 14 000 soldiers from Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, UK and USA was cancelled March 11. It was announced by Lieutenant General Rune Jakobsen, Chief of the operational staff at the Joint Operative Headquarters, at a press conference were he stated: “What is new since yesterday is that the corona virus is out of control in society. We want to preserve the armed forces’ ability to fight so that we are able to support society in the complex period that will follow”. This response came late. When the exercise already had started, a soldier was tested positive for Coronavirus on March 5. Finland withdraw their soldiers already March 8.

On March 10, at least two top European military commanders tested positive for corona after they, together with other senior military representatives, attended a conference on an American military base in Germany. During the meeting it was discussed how to protect soldiers participating in Defender Europe 20 from the corona virus. No decisions were made.

Countries like China, Singapore and South Korea show that it is possible to stop the growth of number of people infected by the corona virus by acting fast and decisive. Unfortunately, Italy and some other countries did not. Today China helps Italy by sending medical experts and offering 10 000 pulmonary ventilators, 2 million face masks, and 20 000 protective suits. This gesture is gratefully received in Italy after EU members failed to respond to Italy’s request for urgent assistance.

We call for a change in the way Europe and others worldwide address vulnerability. Rather than starting an arms race and foment enemy images we see the need of cooperation across borders. What we need is peace and welfare to address the common threats to our health, social security and global environment. Not as Western State leaders at the Munich security conferences make China and Russia their adversary.

The large scale exercises bringing together tens of thousands of soldiers from different countries as part of a drastic increase in military expenditure show how out of touch with today's realities the present policies are. These exercises not only pose and immediate threat in terms of risk for disseminating the corona virus, they are also a misuse of our common resources for addressing the problems in the world today. What we need is not further escalation and polarization between West and East but addressing of social, health and environmental concerns of importance to all of humanity.

This is why we say:

  • Stop Defender 20, Aurora 20 and other large scale military exercises in Europe and elsewhere
  • End rearmament and invest in peace, welfare, health and the environment

If you agree on our call to cancel all military exercises in Europe and elsewhere, please sign this petition. 

Activists for peace


References and links

Activists for peace

Activists for peace blog in English

Activists for peace blog in Swedish

Activists for peace on Facebook

Our international cooperation partner Prague Spring 2 on Facebook

Defender Europe 20

Official Defender Europe 20 information

Nato's official information about Defender Europe 2020


Hudson, Kate: “US to practice invasion in Europe”. Campain for Nuclear Disarmament, 10 February 2020.

Wagner, Jürgen: “Großmanöver Defender 2020” (In German. English translation of the title: "Huge maneuver Defender 2020"). IMI, 10 January 2020.

Positive tests for corona in relation to Defender Europe 20

AP: "US, European Military Commanders Possibly Exposed to Virus", New York Times, 10 March 2020.


Official information about Aurora20 from Swedish Armed forces


Görgü, Kemal, Nordlund, Harald and Sevéus Harald: “Krigsförberedelser eller fredspolitik?”. (In Swedish. English translation of the title: "War preparations or peace politics?"). Uppsala Nya Tidning - debatt, 23 February 2020

Cancelled Cold Response 2020

Finland pulls out of Cold Response

Woody, Christopher “Finland pulled troops from an Artic military exercise with the US and 8 other countries over coronavirus concerns”. Business Insider, 8 March 2020.

Cold Response 20 cancelled

Bakkemo Danilov, Peder: “Cold Response 2020 cancelled”. High North News, 11 March 2020.

Nielsen, Thomas: “Norway cancels Cold Response due to coronavirus outbreak”. The Barents Observer, 11 March 2020.

China helps Italy to fight its coronavirus outbreak

Boffey, Daniel: “Italy criticises EU for being slow to help over coronavirus epidemic”. The Guardian, 11 March 2020.

CGTN "Italy Criticizes EU for not responding its call for help, ´only China responded bilaterally´". CGTN, 12 March 2020.

Hume, Tim: “China Is Now Sending Doctors, Masks and Hazmat Suits to Help Italy With Its Coronavirus Outbreak”, Vice News, 11 march 2020.

Wu, Wendy: “China sends team of medical experts, gear to help Italy fight coronavirus”. South China Morning Post, 11 March 2020.


Support now
Signatures: 2,417Next Goal: 2,500
Support now

Decision Makers

  • Angela Merkel (CDU)Kanzlerin der Bundesrepublik Deutschland
  • Donald J. TrumpPresident
  • Stefan LöfvenPrime Minister of Sweden
  • Jens StoltenbergNATO Secretary General
  • all political leadersaround the world