American troops massing near former Soviet republics
- The following news analysis by Esther Schrader of The Los Angeles Times
appeared on page A24 of the Sunday, 4 May 2003 edition of The Arizona
Republic. The heroic resistance fighters of Iraq may well be defending
far more than their own country's independence or even that of the Arab
world in general. Both the Clinton and Bush administrations have expressed
an interest in a "regime change" in Belarus, and this appears to be a step
U.S. SHIFTS TROOPS TO EASTERN EUROPE FROM WEST
Washington--Fueled by resentment over the opposition of "Old Europe" to the
war in Iraq, the Pentagon is accelerating plans to move tens of thousands
of U.S. troops out of bases in Germany and to establish bases in the former
East Bloc contries of Hungary, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.
The first concrete evidence of the shift is the movement of the army's
17,000-strong First Armored Division, which largely deployed to Iraq from
bases in Germany but will not return there, senior military officials said.
Spanning The Globe
With the Pentagon's recent expansion across Central Asia, the move into
Eastern Europe means the U.S. military will span the globe as never before.
"If you want to talk about suns not setting on empires, you know, the Brits
had nothing compared to this," said John Pike, a defense analyst with
GlobalSecurity.org, an intelligence and military policy think tank based in
But even as the Pentagon proposes deploying troops to new places, it
envisions more temporary deployments, allowing larger numbers of troops to
be based in the United States.
More than 112,000 U.S. troops are based in Europe, 80 percent of them are
scattered around Germany. But with some Western European nations
increasingly reluctant to house U.S. troops and with formerly communist
countries signing up for NATO and eager to host the Americans, Pentagon
officials say change is imminent.
The move also is being driven by the vision of Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld--who coined the dismissive "Old Europe" tag when France and
Germany balked at supporing the Iraq war--for a leaner, faster military.
Moving out of some of the hundreds of small, scattered U.S. military
installations in Europe and into the countries along or near the Black Sea
coast would make it faster to get troops to potential hot spots in the
Middle East and areas of Africa.
"Why do we need a joint force to be in Germany, where there's nothing
happening?" a senior military official said. "You have to have troops close
to ports and airfields that are closer to the action. And you also want
to have them in a place where people agree with what you're doing, so they
don't shut down ports and they don't shut down airfields."
Eliot Cohen, a Johns Hopkins University professor of strategic studies who is
highly influential with senior Bush administration officials said, "The U.S.
is the staggering military power, and the fact is, the Russians lost the
Cold War." [I'll leave readers to speculate on Dr. Cohen's religion or group
Initial Pentagon plans call for building U.S. bases at Sarafovo airfield in
Bulgaria and the nearby Black Sea port of Burgas, where U.S. KC-135
refueling tanker aircraft and more than 200 troops were based during the
U.S. facilities also will be built at the Romanian air base of Mihail
Kogalniceanu and the nearby Black Sea port of Costanta, both of which
were used to ferry troops and equipment into Iraq.
The Pentagon also plans to take over vast military training grounds and
firing ranges, all once used by the Soviet armed forces, in Hungary and
Some Bases To Remain
Major U.S. bases in Germany and Italy, including the largest facilities in and
around Ramstein Air Base near Frankfurt, Germany, would remain, although
they will house fewer troops. "This is a purposeful effort to possibly
leave places where they may not want us or they are snubbing us," another
senior military official said. "The Eastern Bloc countries have reached out
to us. They are not looking for outright bribes like some countries did
recently that shall go unnamed [Turkey, --Kevin]. They are looking for a