While all eyes are turned toward the
conflict with Iraq, the U.S. has already learned several critical
lessons in the prologue to military conflict with Baghdad. Simply
put, American forces in Europe are not deployed to meet the coming
challenges of the 21st century. The Bush Administration should
seriously consider redeploying NATO forces further east in greater
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice recently observed,
throughout history there have been a few events that triggered
systemic changes in international politics. The attack of September
11, 2001, was such an occasion and, like similar events in the
past, has tested long-lasting alliances and institutions.
is currently true as coalition forces are working to enforce United
Nations resolutions that call for the disarmament of Iraq.
Institutions such as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and
alliances such as NATO are being tested. The UNSC was unable to
agree on a path to enforce its own resolutions, and long-time
allies in NATO disagreed on how to neutralize the threat posed by
the coalition defeats tyranny in Iraq, those alliances and
institutions will still have an opportunity to re-emerge stronger
than ever and prepare for the many challenges of the 21st century.
However, they have yet to move beyond the status quo and redefine
themselves to become relevant to the new era. The United States can
lead this effort by restructuring its bases in Europe, as part of a
global base realignment and closure program, to be more consistent
with the realities of today's threats.
Whether globally or only in Europe, the
United States should adhere to four principles to ensure that its
decisions on restructuring its forces and base structure advance
the national interests of both the U.S. and its allies:
a base must advance America's overall strategic objectives.
a base must increase America's ability to respond to current
threats as well as facilitate and enhance America's ongoing
military transformation from an industrial age force built to fight
the Cold War to a digital-age force built to address the varied and
unpredictable threats of the future.
the decision to maintain an existing base or open a new one must
not be driven by recent political differences; yet it must take
into consideration the evolving political realities of the 21st
the decision to maintain an existing base or open a new one must
not be driven by economics but should embrace economically prudent
highest priority for any restructuring of America's bases in Europe
must be advancing America's strategic objectives. Those objectives
include nurturing existing alliances and friendships, preventing a
hostile power from dominating Europe or the Middle East, and
ensuring access to regional natural resources. Committing to
regional stability and increasing geostrategic flexibility will
facilitate these objectives.
the increasing need for operability outside Europe, bases in the
heart of Germany alone no longer serve the strategic purpose they
did during the Cold War. Berlin is no longer the fault line for
future military conflict, and America's European basing structure
should reflect that reality. Given that flashpoints for future
conflict are likely to revolve around the Caucasus, Iraq, the
Middle East, and North Africa, establishing forward positions in
closer geographical proximity to those regions would demonstrate
America's commitment to the long-term security of the region. It
would also allow the U.S. to respond rapidly to crises in those
Furthermore, restructuring America's
military bases in Europe would increase its geostrategic
flexibility. Currently, the United States is too dependent on a few
countries. Developing a presence in other nations of the region
would decrease America's dependence on Turkey, for example, and
therefore ease pressure on that vital American ally. It is
important that Ankara, situated in a very tough neighborhood, not
be the sole pressure point when the U.S. projects forces eastward
and southward from Europe. The political situation inside Turkey
might force even a generally sympathetic regime in Ankara to resist
America's using Turkey as a jumping-off point, as has happened over
Iraq. Basing in Bulgaria and Romania would shift some of the burden
away from a hard-pressed American friend.
Likewise, basing in Bulgaria and Romania
would provide Turkey, which will remain a key partner, the
diplomatic cover it may need to help the United States by
emphasizing such actions are regional in nature and not solely a
case of the U.S.'s asking an embattled Ankara for yet more military
United States should revisit its current European base structure
for operational reasons as well. Although base restructuring would
incur significant financial costs, Soviet-era bases are available
throughout Eastern Europe; and while most would require significant
improvements, some nations, such as Romania and Bulgaria are
already upgrading their bases in Constanza and Burgas under the
terms of the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP).
Furthermore, due to less stringent
environmental regulations than those found in Germany, such bases
allow American troops to train more fully, critically maintaining
military readiness at a higher level. Indeed, General James Jones,
Supreme Allied Commander Europe, is currently visiting 26 nations
(the 19 full members of NATO and seven prospective members) to
determine what each nation could provide if the U.S. decides to
restructure it bases.
country in Eastern Europe has attractive basing opportunities. The
Taszar air base in Hungary, which was used by U.S. forces to
conduct operation into the Balkans, could be upgraded and expanded.
Bulgaria offers Black Sea access with its ports of Varna and Burgas
and air bases such as Dobritch in the Northeast and Kroumovo in the
South. The Czech
Republic, as well as other nations, offers a variety of basing
Training has become more difficult in
Western European countries, especially Germany. That country has
severely limited America's ability to fly helicopters at night,
conduct live-fire exercises, and conduct training maneuvers in
heavy, tracked vehicles. This is not the case with America's new
allies in Eastern Europe. In fact, America and other NATO allies
are already taking advantage of training opportunities there.
countries have been holding military exercises in Eastern Europe
since 1994. In early
February, for example, the United States began training members of
the Iraqi opposition in Hungary. Last year, European Command
decided to move its largest training exercise from Germany to
Poland because German regulations put too many restrictions on the
exercise for them to be optimally effective. This training
exercise, Victory Strike III, is V Corp's biggest annual exercise,
lasting three weeks and involving 5,000 U.S. soldiers. The Czech Republic
also has allowed U.S. forces to train on its territory.
Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland offer a variety of terrains on
which to train, from vast flatlands and swamps to the Baltic Sea
and rugged mountains. This has attracted eight countries, including
Germany and Italy, to train regularly in Poland. These training opportunities not only
help increase the readiness of U.S. forces, but also facilitate
interoperability among allies.
issue of interoperability between American forces and those of its
allies should be of great concern, and the more NATO allies train
together, the better they will operate together. The success of any
military coalition comes down to the ability of its members to work
together. This was notably demonstrated in Operation Iraqi Freedom
when American tankers refueled British jets.
members and Eastern European nations have already established a
track record of working together. For example, Eastern European
nations and Russia worked under American command during missions in
Bosnia in 1995, nearly every Eastern European nation sends
representatives to work with American National Guard units, and
many of those same nations send top military officers to study in
American military schools. Expanding America's basing to include
its new Eastern European allies would greatly enhance NATO
Developing bases in Eastern Europe,
however, does not mean that the United States should abandon all of
its current bases in Western Europe. The United States has many
state-of-the-art facilities throughout Europe, especially in
Germany, that it should not leave.
bases in Eastern Europe could also facilitate the Pentagon's
ongoing transformation from an industrial-age force built to defeat
the Soviet Union to a digital-age force prepared to take on the
varied and unpredictable threats that are sure to emerge in the
21st century. The current base structure was developed to defend
against a largely static and predictable enemy--the Soviet Union.
The current threat environment is dynamic and unpredictable. As
demonstrated by the September 11 attacks that required a response
in Afghanistan, it is very difficult to predict where America's
armed forces will be asked to fight next. Therefore, a flexible
basing structure that promotes adaptability in a world of diverse
political, strategic, and diplomatic interests is necessary.
new bases in Europe will likely be smaller and used to maintain a
rotational force. These new bases can help foster the mobility and
strategic agility that today's force lacks. A series of small bases
used by rotational forces will, by their very nature, facilitate
the lighter and more mobile force that the Pentagon is trying to
restructure. On the other hand, by remaining dependent on the
status quo of permanent bases in Europe, the force will have less
incentive to transform.
The added flexibility will give U.S.
military commanders more options than are currently available.
Turkey's hesitancy to give full cooperation to coalition forces had
a deleterious effect on U.S. military planning in the war with
Iraq. Essentially, the pendulum of Turkish politics, which happened
to be swinging in the wrong direction at the wrong time, limited
the options available to the coalition. Turkey's legislature
success-fully did, albeit for vastly different reasons, what
America's adversaries will attempt in the future: deny American
forces the access that they require to achieve optimum advantage in
times of conflict.
The result was that the attacking forces
really had no significant strategic reserve or maneuver force. The
4th Infantry Division was stuck floating in the Mediterranean
instead of charging Baghdad, thus increasing risk by weakening the
northern front of the offensive. The result was that available
forces were put under undue strain when they were given the order
to attack. Luckily, Saddam was unable to take full advantage of the
opportunity provided to him.
is no secret that the further east one travels in Europe, the
generally more pro-American the governments become. After being
oppressed by the tyrannies of Nazism and communism, Eastern
Europeans recall American efforts for those on the wrong side of
the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. As a result, they see
American political, economic, and military engagement in Europe as
essential for their long-term stability. This is often not the case
with some of America's friends such as France and Germany.
said, however, both old and new Europe remain important to
America's future. Therefore, while the U.S. works with its new
friends in Eastern Europe to develop new bases, it should maintain
a good relationship with its old allies.
series of letters proclaiming support for the position of the
United States and the United Kingdom in Iraq shows conclusively
that, despite arguments to the contrary, many European countries
are still ready, willing, and able to support the United States in
its hour of need. To
nurture this political reality, America should increase its ties
with these strongly pro-American countries.
attempt by certain members of the German parliament to limit
American use of German airspace for a campaign on Iraq failed. If
it had succeeded, it would have severely impeded U.S. operations.
While the effort amounted to little, its very existence should send
shivers through all conscientious members of the alliance; in a
world of rogue states, weapons of mass destruction, and global
terrorist networks, such a threatened hampering of America's
ability to act decisively and quickly with coalitions of the
willing depends on the critical word "willing."
the other hand, Bulgaria and Romania opened their airspace
unconditionally and offered use of their land and sea ports to U.S.
forces during the Afghanistan conflict. Similar cooperation among Eastern
European friends is ongoing in the war in Iraq.
will also be important to ensure that any restructuring of American
forces is not seen as a reaction to Germany's opposition to the war
with Iraq. While fissures have emerged over the war, it will be
imperative to reaffirm that the U.S. values its traditional
alliances, especially with Germany, and that its restructuring
efforts will benefit all of Europe.
Similarly, this move will require
conferring with Russia, possibly even renegotiation of the
Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, to emphasize that it is
not directed at Moscow but could form the basis of a closer
NATO-Russia relationship embodied in the new NATO-Russia council.
The Administration should engage in this conversation with the
Russians as soon as possible, stressing to the Russians that such a
renegotiation is also in their interest given that the threat they
face is no longer from the West, but from the South.
Financing this project remains an issue.
This is precisely why Congress and the Bush Administration should
authorize a feasibility study for the restructuring of forces in
have argued that moving bases eastward would be prohibitively
expensive. While there are costs involved, the economic costs
should not prohibit such a move if it enhances overall national
security. Furthermore, by establishing smaller bases set up for
rotational forces in Eastern Europe, the U.S. would not incur the
same sort of costs that it takes to build bases for soldiers and
their dependents in more expensive parts of the world.
should also be noted that, while the United States already
maintains an extensive base network in places like Germany, it
still invests billions of dollars in new facilities in countries
where it already has a presence. For example, the Army is scheduled
to begin construction soon on a $692 million base in Grafenwoehr,
Germany, which will house 3,500 soldiers and 5,000 dependents. One must ask how many
smaller bases could be built in Eastern Europe for that same
expenditure when in Qatar, 30 kilometers outside of Doha, the
United States recently built the world's largest store of
pre-positioned Army equipment for only $110 million.
new bases are established in other parts of Europe, they should not
be the sprawling complexes that dot the European landscape today.
Instead, they should be smaller and more Spartan. America's
European bases are not only home to over 104,000 troops, but also
home to 125,000 dependents. This is because troops are stationed at
these bases for periods of years rather then on a rotational basis
as they are in the Balkans, where U.S. forces rotate in and out on
six-month rotations. The result is that the U.S. government needs
to provide support services for their entire families for most of
the troops permanently stationed in Europe.
South Korea, on the other hand, troops are deployed on annual
assignments. The equipment and infrastructure stays while troops
rotate in and out. Families are not brought along because the
troops are there for a relatively short period of time. Although
over 37,000 troops are stationed in South Korea, there are just
over 4,000 dependents. In Germany, the U.S. maintains 68 schools to
educate the children of its 70,000 troops, but in South Korea, the
U.S. maintains only eight schools. The result of a rotational
deployment strategy is a much smaller infrastructure footprint
because fewer support facilities are required.
size of the bases and the services they provide to dependents will
have a long-term economic impact. The Pentagon can save significant
resources by minimizing support infrastructure on foreign bases.
Base operations support is a significant line item in the
Pentagon budget, accounting for a little over $18 billion in 2003.
While there are sound reasons at some installations for maintaining
a family support structure, with support requirements in Europe
reduced, more military dependents could stay stateside, thus
reducing the overall support costs as military families are able to
take advantage of new programs that encourage them to seek housing
and other services in the private sector.
There would be no logic behind redeploying
forces in Europe if it were not a win-win situation for all parties
involved. The reality is that Western Europe prospered greatly in
the post-World War II years in large part because of the
stabilizing presence of U.S. forces. Similarly, the United States
could never have won the Cold War if it had been unable to
establish a credible military presence in Western Europe.
Additionally, America's presence in Europe facilitated positive,
long-term relations with those nations.
same results would flow from establishing a presence in Eastern
Europe. Those countries still have vivid memories of oppression by
vicious dictators. A credible American presence in those countries
would allow them to put the Cold War behind them once and for all.
The security provided by this close military relationship would
allow these nations to fulfill their economic potential.
American presence would also be hugely positive from an American
point of view. The relationship would solidify a long-term
friendship with many past adversaries and have a positive economic
impact on the U.S. economy. Most important, however, is that it
would advance America's national security.
the political, military, and strategic reasons outlined above, base
restructuring is certainly in America's interests. The world has
entered a new era; it is well past time for U.S. force structure in
Europe to reflect this seminal fact.
Jack Spencer is Senior Policy Analyst for Defense
and National Security and John C. Hulsman, Ph.D., is Research
Fellow in European Affairs in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis
Institute for International Studies at The Heritage