Adam Ash

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

US Diary: military bases everywhere

The American Army Redeploys in Europe: The agreement recently signed with Romania is the first step in a new strategy the Bush administration decided on in August 2004 -- by Arnaud de La Grange

Thousands, even tens of thousands of "boys" are returning home. The Washington-determined repatriation of important units based in Europe could appear to be a withdrawal, an isolationist reflex. In the minds of Pentagon strategists, it's entirely the opposite. Not a withdrawal, but a strategic redeployment to adapt to new threats, essentially terrorism.

Described as "historic," the signing of an agreement offering facilities to American forces in Romania is emblematic of that movement. Of a shift from the "Old" to the "New" Europe. Moreover, the announcement of that redeployment in August 2004 was interpreted by some as a desire on the part of the Bush administration to punish the rebellion of its historic allies following their refusal to follow the US into the Iraqi adventure. True and false at the same time.

Ulterior Economic Motives

True, because Donald Rumsfeld certainly intends not to be hampered anymore by political contingencies, to limit dependence on those allies who are difficult to manage diplomatically. The war against Saddam Hussein in 2003 served as a lesson. Turkey vetoed use of its soil as a rear-guard base for operations in northern Iraq. In contrast, the countries of Eastern Europe showed themselves to be excellent comrades. In contrast to France and Germany, they had signed the famous "Vilnius Letter" and "Letter of the Eight," supporting the American position. Some of them find themselves being rewarded for that today.

False, because this American redeployment is the result of a basic reconsideration that began well before September 11, during the nineties. "Rumsfeld only accelerated all that," comments Etienne de Durand, a researcher at the Institut français des relations internationales (Ifri).* "It's a very ambitious project that will take many years and be expensive. Moreover, no one can say where it will stand in ten years. It's the inheritance of the Cold War that Washington is selling off today in order to assume a global posture. The key concept is to get closer to crisis zones." Hence to the border outlining the "Greater Middle East."

In consequence, it is the moment for disengagement from traditional deployment areas - Western Europe and Northeast Asia - in order to beef up forward outposts at the borders of chaos. American forces in Europe will go from 112,000 men today to some 50,000. A certain number of heavy units, like the two divisions deployed in Germany, are going to be repatriated to the United States. They will be replaced by lighter, more mobile units, the flexibility of which will allow more rapid projection.

Forces notably equipped with the new light Stryker tank, introduced in Iraq. "This redeployment corresponds to a big reform in the infantry," comments Etienne de Durand, "they're breaking up the big divisions into brigades that can be autonomously deployed."

The new American bases are now divided into three main categories:
1. MOBs (Main Operating Bases): Like the former big bases such as Ramstein in Germany or Aviano in Italy. Key installations in all the latest crises, whether in the Balkans or in the Middle East.
2. FOSs (Forward Operating Sites): Advanced posts at the gateways to crisis zones. Lighter units will be deployed there in the framework of six-month rotations. They'll train in place with local armies. Unlike traditional bases, families will not follow, which will reduce their costs by as much.
3. CSLs (Cooperative Security Locations): Installations that will be activated only in case of need and the maintenance of which will be assured by local forces or private companies.

While it does respond to strategic and political objectives, this American military redeployment is not without ulterior economic motives. The countries of Eastern Europe, already prompted by NATO norms, are potential clients for the American armaments industry. Thus, in 2003, Poland bought F-16 fighter planes, to the great chagrin of Europeans, especially the French and the Swedish. Just after signing this pretty contract, George W. Bush declared during a visit to Warsaw, "I have no better friend in Europe than Poland."


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