Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Surplus and Unnecessary Bases in Europe?

The United States military is holding the line on our troop presence in Europe even though we are consolidating bases. Russia is the main motivator. Moscow isn't the only reason to stay engaged there.

While it is good to halt the decline of our troop presence in Europe--even 25 years after the Cold War and 69 years after World War II--at this point I'm starting to think we need to worry about base capacity to handle a surge of troops in an emergency.

Still, this is a relief:

The Pentagon announced last week it intends to close 15 bases in Europe, shift aviation forces from the United Kingdom to Germany, and in the process save $500 billion a year. The proposal does not dramatically alter the U.S. military presence in Europe, but is significant because it sets the stage for a broader debate about how the U.S. military should posture itself to counter Russia's aggression. ...

U.S. European Command is closing down bases but is not reducing its workforce of 94,000 — 67,000 military and 27,000 civilians. The decision to keep EUCOM personnel largely intact speaks to the unexpected changes in Europe's security situation since the Pentagon launched a review of its presence there two years ago.

"Europe is now a theater of insecurity. It hadn't been considered that since the end of the Cold War," said Barry Pavel, director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.

Russia is a renewed threat that is being recognized verbally if not with significant resources added yet.

I argued against reducing our Army below five brigades back in 2003. See the November-December issue of Military Review for my article. (And let me add that I do not have a PhD. I have no idea why they assumed that. Doctor Dignified has a master's degree--in history. They printed an email of mine--which I had not intended to be published verbatim--that corrected them. They said they'd correct the online byline, and they did--but it has popped back up in the archives.)

And in 2008, post-Georgia War, I renewed my call for a robust US Army in Europe.

Not only because of the possibility of a renewed threat to Europe but because Europe is a power projection outpost to react to problems in an arc of crisis from West Africa to Central Asia:

American bases in Europe already provide a stepping-stone for CONUS-based forces to use to deploy to trouble spots from Angola to central Asia. ...

The vast region from West Africa through North Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, to Central Asia is a large area of potential crises—and some actual ones—as when, in September 2002, U.S. forces deployed from Germany to Africa’s Ivory Coast where a mutiny threatened U.S. citizens’ safety.

And of course, Europe is an objective to be secured and not just a collection of allies we help.

By all means, focus on Asia and the Pacific. China's size and growing power require that attention.

But that doesn't mean we can declare "mission accomplished" in Europe and the nearby arc of crisis, as Russia, ISIL (in Iraq and Syria), Libya, Nigeria, Mali, Yemen, Iran, Lebanon, Gaza, Somalia, and Sudan show us every day in the news.