From the December 2003 Idaho Observer:

Shifting east: U.S. plans military bases in Eastern Europe

By Radek Vogl

The Cold War was responsible for the U.S. maintaining a military presence in Europe with which it could fight a conventional land war. The Cold war, which ended in 1989, has been replaced by the “war on terror.” The U.S. military is still prepared to wage conventional warfare in Europe. At present time U.S. still has over 100,000 troops on European soil, most of whom are stationed in Germany.

The U.S. recently published a review of its military bases and commitments in Europe. This report recommended a major shift away from maintaining its military presence in western Europe and relocating in eastern Europe. The new focus would be on areas of economic and geopolitical importance around Europe's periphery.

The Supreme Allied Command stresses that the centre of gravity will remain in Central Europe, but they add that the “center of activity” is moving. The troops need to be made more deployable, more able to react rapidly and be moved closer to changing locations of possible hostilities. The arc of instability, according U.S. military, is now stretching from Caucasus mountains between the Black and Caspian seas to the Middle East and into North Africa. For example, most American casualties in the war in Iraq were treated in Germany -- which is more than 2,000 miles from the fighting. Ramstein Airbase in Germany, the largest permanent U.S. military community outside America, is likely to remain, but other German bases will likely be closed.

Where will the new bases be located?

Governments of so-called New Europe (former Soviet bloc countries) are eager to welcome American military presence within their borders. The U.S. has already set up a base on the Black Sea in Bulgaria to help facilitate its operations in Iraq. Romania would like to have a permanent U.S. military base and has already provided facilities for 1,000 American soldiers. Poland and the Czechs have also expressed an interest in hosting American military bases.

The main reason the new democracies of Eastern Europe are interested in hosting U.S. forces in their countries is they are anticipating how the arrangement will bring them increased influence in world affairs and an infusion of cash into their struggling economies.

While the leaders of these governments are anxious to bring the Americans and their money into their countries, the people are generally opposed to accepting foreign troops on their territory. It will be difficult to convince the people who have only recently had the burden of Soviet military occupation lifted to welcome a permanent U.S. military presence.

General Jiri Sedivy, former Army chief in the Czech Republic, acknowledged this attitude. He explained that he would like to support U.S. intentions to provision a military base in his country but, he admits, after 20 years under the Soviet heel, “there would be a part of the society against the presence.”

New Czech president Vaclav Klaus also doesn't support this deployment in his country, arguing bad experiences with Soviet troops stationed in Czechoslovakia almost 20 years after its Prague Spring invasion of 1968.

Serious discussions are now taking place in Prague about this plan. In the meantime, the idea of shifting military presence to eastern Europe is quickly becoming an important topic of conversation among military and political circles in Washington, D.C.

It appears the main problems with shifting east is how to pull most operations out of Germany without offending the Germans, how to justify the huge cost of moving such entrenched operations east and how to build a bridge of trust between the people in New Europe and the U.S.

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