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Germany

The Problem With Trimming The U.S. Military Presence In Germany

The chief foreign policy correspondent for Die Welt chimes in on Trump's decision to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Germany from 35,000 to 25,000.

U.S. President Donald Trump takes selfies with U.S. service members during stop-over at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
U.S. President Donald Trump takes selfies with U.S. service members during stop-over at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
Clemens Wergin

-OpEd-

BERLIN — That's the thing with emotional acts: Often you can understand where they come, but ultimately they're counterproductive. Such is the case with the partial withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany that Donald Trump confirmed on Monday and presented as a kind of punitive action for Germany's failure to meet NATO spending expectations.

Indeed, the president's frustration is partly understandable. In an increasingly insecure world, Germany's longstanding refusal to increase defense spending tends to border on neglect of duty, and one cannot be surprised that Berlin is accused of freeloading.

Frustration over a stubborn ally is not a good guide for strategic decisions.

Also, as Trump points out, it makes no sense in view of Russia's increasingly aggressive stance for Germany to depend even more on Russian gas supplies through Nord Stream 2 and make Eastern Europe more vulnerable to Russian blackmail attempts. Germany clearly has poor arguments on these issues and displays a level of stubbornness that even many European partners cannot understand.

But that doesn't make Trump's decision any better. Frustration over a stubborn ally is not a good guide for strategic decisions. Having a significant contingent of U.S. troops in the heart of Europe is also in line with American, not just German interests. And it makes sense that the bulk of U.S. troops are not directly on the Eastern European front line, where they would be more vulnerable.

In the event of a crisis, they could move there quickly. Germany is also a good location from a logistical point of view, as units can be relocated quickly to the volatile Middle East, for example.

Trump's partial withdrawal, on the other hand, weakens NATO, weakens America's position in Europe and damages relations with its important, though sometimes irritating ally, Germany. In sum, Trump has shown the same strategic short-sightedness that he rightly accuses the Germans of.

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Green

Forest Networks? Revisiting The Science Of Trees And Funghi "Reaching Out"

A compelling story about how forest fungal networks communicate has garnered much public interest. Is any of it true?

Thomas Brail films the roots of a cut tree with his smartphone.

Arborist and conservationist Thomas Brail at a clearcutting near his hometown of Mazamet in the Tarn, France.

Melanie Jones, Jason Hoeksema, & Justine Karst

Over the past few years, a fascinating narrative about forests and fungi has captured the public imagination. It holds that the roots of neighboring trees can be connected by fungal filaments, forming massive underground networks that can span entire forests — a so-called wood-wide web. Through this web, the story goes, trees share carbon, water, and other nutrients, and even send chemical warnings of dangers such as insect attacks. The narrative — recounted in books, podcasts, TV series, documentaries, and news articles — has prompted some experts to rethink not only forest management but the relationships between self-interest and altruism in human society.

But is any of it true?

The three of us have studied forest fungi for our whole careers, and even we were surprised by some of the more extraordinary claims surfacing in the media about the wood-wide web. Thinking we had missed something, we thoroughly reviewed 26 field studies, including several of our own, that looked at the role fungal networks play in resource transfer in forests. What we found shows how easily confirmation bias, unchecked claims, and credulous news reporting can, over time, distort research findings beyond recognition. It should serve as a cautionary tale for scientists and journalists alike.

First, let’s be clear: Fungi do grow inside and on tree roots, forming a symbiosis called a mycorrhiza, or fungus-root. Mycorrhizae are essential for the normal growth of trees. Among other things, the fungi can take up from the soil, and transfer to the tree, nutrients that roots could not otherwise access. In return, fungi receive from the roots sugars they need to grow.

As fungal filaments spread out through forest soil, they will often, at least temporarily, physically connect the roots of two neighboring trees. The resulting system of interconnected tree roots is called a common mycorrhizal network, or CMN.

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