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Teacher vs. US Base: 'If Germany is Really Independent, It Must Close Ramstein'

© Flickr / Kenny HolstonC-130 Hercules transport aircraft at US Airbase at Ramstein.
C-130 Hercules transport aircraft at US Airbase at Ramstein. - Sputnik International
Wolfgang Jung, a retired German teacher from Kaiserslautern, Germany, has done everything to try to get the government to close Ramstein Airbase. In April, he filed a lawsuit in a federal court, saying that the deadly drone strikes using the base were a violation of international law. His case has been dismissed, but he hasn't lost hope.

Interviewed by Sputnik Deutschland, the spritely 88-year-old explained that his case, filed in April at the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, had been dismissed, because his claim supposedly 'did not concern him personally'.

US Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile setting off from its hangar at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, November 27, 2009. - Sputnik International
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"I filed a lawsuit against the use of the Ramstein Airbase, which violates international law and the German constitution," the retired teacher said. He added that over the course of four years, Ramstein has become central to the US drone war in Afghanistan.

"My case was dismissed. It was not even considered. I was simply denied the right to bring my suit," Jung noted, explaining that he was told that he "personally was not affected by the military drones," and therefore "cannot sue."

Frustrated by the result, the retiree-turned-activist suggested that "according to the logic of the court, German citizens do not have the right to file a lawsuit against actions that are illegal under international law originating from US military bases on German territory."

© SputnikRamstein Air Base
Ramstein Air Base - Sputnik International
Ramstein Air Base

Asked what compelled him to file his suit, Jung explained that his motivation was deeply personal. "I was born and raised in this region. The air base is located two kilometers from my home. I worked here as a schoolboy and a student, and since the time of the Vietnam War, have felt that a great deal of harm has come from this base. I was born in 1928, and came to know the experience of war, as a child, for myself. For this reason I have always been against war and for peace."

Ramstein, the activist recalled, plays a crucial role in US operations in North Africa and the Middle East, as well as Afghanistan. The base features a satellite relay station (SATCOM), through which all communications between pilots and drone operators in the US and the drones themselves takes place.

"All the data, including video, is transmitted to the US through Ramstein. Without this station, the US drone war would not be possible in its present form," he noted.

Meanwhile, Jung said, "the federal government pretends not to know anything. It points to President Obama's statement that drones do not fly out of German territory – that they are not operated from here. And this is true, but that's not the point. The issue lies in the base's indirect use via the satellite communication station, located on German territory, and without which the drone war would be impossible. But our government shrugs this off, saying that 'we know nothing about this', and 'we trust the words of the US president'."

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The retired teacher noted that formally, since the signing of the German treaty of independence, (the Two Plus Four Agreement) in September 1990, "we are a sovereign country, capable of independently determining our domestic and foreign policy." Accordingly, he noted, the question that the government should ask is: "Why should we tolerate an external power that uses our territory to wage war?"

"Ramstein is not just about drones," Jung emphasized. It is a also key point for US and NATO airstrikes…[The base holds] the General Staff of the US Air Force in Europe and Africa, and the General Staff of NATO air forces (Aircom). Without these commands there would not be a unified movement of NATO air power – either in Europe, in Africa, or anywhere else. Ramstein is also the headquarters for the US missile shield; yes, it's sold to the public as a NATO institution, but really consists exclusively of US missile systems and radar."

What's even more concerning, Jung suggested, is that NATO is now in the process of making preparations for a possible war against Russia. "In such a war, we would be the first to die, because the important high-value assets located here would be a priority target for Russian missiles."

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Sputnik poll finds that Europeans Don’t Trust Foreign Military Bases - Sputnik International
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In addition to Ramstein, the region of Rhineland-Palatinate also has a significant US Army contingent, including the largest US ammunition depot in the world outside the US – Ammunition Center Europe, where 25,000 tons of ammunition is stored, and transferred to the battlefields in Iraq and Syria. 

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Ramstein itself has its own massive ammunition depot, storing bombs and missiles. Its nuclear bomb storage facilities, currently empty, may be used to store the 50 warheads presently held at Incirlik, Turkey. Moreover, according to Jung, the US has made it very clear that they have no intention of closing the base, even building a second runway recently.

Despite having his case rejected in federal court, the retiree hasn't lost hope. "Of course I will not give up! I am taking not only legal steps, but also publish an online newspaper called Luftpost. Since the legal path has been exhausted, I will be more actively engaged with the newspaper."

Jung emphasized that several positive trends in locals' attitudes toward the base have already appeared. For one thing, public concern over the airbase has been on the rise. "You have probably noticed that lately two large demonstrations have been held. Last year a demonstration was attended by 1,500 people, and this year by 5,000. We hope that there will be even more people next year."

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Moreover, if earlier Ramstein and US Army facilities were seen as beneficial to the local economy, "now the Americans are trying to achieve self-sufficiency…German citizens working there who are near retirement are not replaced [by Germans] when they leave. America is trying to replace them with civilian personnel from the US, so as not to depend on Germans." At the same time, the contingent of US troops is also declining, "so that many apartments previously rented out to Americans are now empty; this source of income is also drying up."

"If the local population no longer sees any benefit from the American presence, people will start to think about the dangers which come from this airbase," Jung stressed.

Ultimately, Jung emphasized that the German government has a legal and moral obligation to do something about the US base, "because our constitution says that preparations for wars of aggression cannot be conducted on German soil – and such preparations are being made constantly." 

Ramstein is located on German soil, and accordingly, is subject to German law. "This means that if the federal government is to adhere to our constitution and to international law, it should be required by law, and above all, for moral reasons, to stop these actions," the activist concluded.

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