The Heritage Foundation

News Releases on Europe

April 25, 2003

April 25, 2003 | News Releases on Europe

New Security Climate Calls for Changing U.S. Basing Structure in Europe

WASHINGTON, APRIL 25, 2003-The relatively quick victory won by coalition forces in Iraq doesn't change the need to reconsider where American troops are deployed in Europe-and, says a new paper from The Heritage Foundation, there's much to be said for moving military bases farther east.

"With something as broad as the war on terrorism, it's difficult to predict where our forces may be asked to fight next," according to Jack Spencer, senior policy analyst for defense and national security, and John Hulsman, research fellow in European affairs. "A flexible basing structure would promote the kind of adaptability we'll need as we face new threats."

The situation in Turkey on the eve of war in Iraq underscores this point, the analysts write. Ankara's hesitancy to fully cooperate with coalition forces hampered U.S. military planning and greatly limited the strike options available. Fortunately, Saddam Hussein wasn't able to exploit the opportunity Turkey provided him-but a similar decision made in a future conflict could affect the outcome and result in unnecessary loss of life.

This doesn't mean the United States should abandon all of its current bases in Western Europe, Spencer and Hulsman say. "But bases in the heart of Germany alone no longer serve the strategic purpose they did during the Cold War," they write. "The flashpoints for future conflict likely will revolve around the Caucasus, Iraq, the Middle East and North Africa, so basing troops in those regions will demonstrate our commitment to their long-term security."

It also would enable U.S. troops to train more rigorously. Training has become more difficult in Western European countries, especially Germany, which has severely limited America's ability to fly helicopters at night, conduct live-fire exercises and conduct maneuvers in heavy, tracked vehicles. This isn't the case with America's new allies in Eastern Europe, Spencer and Hulsman say.

"Countries there still have vivid memories of oppression, and a credible American presence would allow them to put the Cold War behind them once and for all," they write. "It would help both them and the United States economically, solidify a long-term friendship with many past adversaries, and advance our national security. It's win-win."

"NEXIS" on-line-data-retrieval service subscribers also can access Heritage studies. Heritage Foundation reports (HFRPTS) can be found in the OMNI, CURRNT, NWLTRS, and GVT group files on the NEXIS library and the GOVT and OMNI group files of the GOVNWS library.

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