Four thousand military personnel from seven NATO countries are engaged in war exercises in Sardinia in recent days. Sixty-five ships are stationed around the island, and there are fighter jets, helicopters, submarines and amphibious units with landing craft and assault vehicles. Earlier this month, an order from the Defense General Staff started the massive exercise maneuver, which was given the code name “Open Sea.” It will run until May 27.
Three weeks of live fire, with bullets, bombs and missiles launched against coastlines of exceptional natural beauty. The main setting for the exercise, as always, is the three main Sardinian military polygons: Quirra, Capo Frasca and Teulada. But this time, the deployment of forces is so vast that the Defense General Staff has decided to block off other sites outside the permanent bases as well. As a result, an order issued by the Cagliari harbormaster’s office banned access to 17 sea areas next to some of the most famous beaches: Poetto, Villasimius, Cala Pira, Capo Ferrato, Porto Pino and Porto Corallo. Along these shorelines, the harbormaster’s order reads, “the transit, stationing, navigation, and anchoring of all types of naval vessels, including recreational ones, is forbidden, as well as diving, bathing, fishing, and related activities.”
Thus, with the tourist season already underway, the entire southern coast of the island and both the southern stretches of the east and west coasts find themselves under siege by NATO forces. But the economic damage to the tourist industry is only one aspect of the issue. While some high-ranking army officers – including General Claudio Graziano, former chairman of the EU Military Committee – are under investigation in Cagliari for causing an environmental disaster because they failed to prevent the Teulada training area from being irreparably polluted by war games, Sardinia’s coasts continue to be devastated by military exercises. And all as a result of simple orders from the Defense General Staff, which is arrogantly dismissing any dialogue with the Region of Sardinia and, above all, with the local communities that are severely affected by the military maneuvers.
Furthermore, one cannot help but notice parallels between ”Open Sea” and the war in Ukraine. In Cagliari on Monday, an Italian navy spokesman said that the operation “has nothing to do with the situation in Ukraine” and that it’s all “normal routine.” But apart from the fact that we are dealing with a “routine” that has devastating effects in any case, if one considers the current international context, one doesn’t even need to think about the Sea of Azov specifically to be alarmed at the prospect of a NATO exercise on the scale of the one in Sardinia, with ultra-elite special amphibious troops landing on a coast supported by fighter jets and tactical support from warships and submarines – all played out with real bombs and missiles.
The anti-military-base movements are protesting against “Open Sea.” Sardinia Arestis, one of the most active organizations, has called for a demonstration in Teulada on Sunday, which will be joined by all the other organizations of the anti-militarist world. Among the regional media, the daily L’Unione Sarda ran a full page spread in which it denounced the critical issues with “Open Sea.” However, we are struck by the indifference of the political world. In Cagliari, as in Rome, there is only silence.
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