U.S. Looks At Eastern Europe for Potential Military Sites | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 10.02.2004
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U.S. Looks At Eastern Europe for Potential Military Sites

American military specialists are in Poland, Bulgaria and Romania this week scouting out potential sites for military installations.


Thousands of troops will leave Germany in the coming years, as part of a shift in U.S. strategy.

The teams will examine airfields, ports and training facilities and report on their potential for transformation into advance sites for the U.S. military, according to a newspaper report confirmed by a military spokesman to DW-WORLD.

The installations will provide bare-bones accomodations and short-term training possiblities for U.S. troops in the coming years. Their locations in Eastern Europe are part of a long-term shift of military personnel away from Cold War fronts like Europe to new hotspots in the Middle East and Africa.

"There will be consolidations and re-organizations," said a spokesman at the U.S. European Military Command in Stuttgart. "That will mean there are facilites that we no longer need."

Topping the list are bases in Germany that the U.S. Army has occupied ever since the end of WWII. Officials are careful not to say which bases might face closure and emphasize that any movement will take place gradually.

German Defense Minister Peter Struck told reporters at the NATO Security Conference over the weekend that a decision would be made in 2004.

Towns worried about base closures

News of the potential closures have caused jitters in German towns that have housed the bases for decades and have had millions of euros pumped into their local economies. Struck tried to soothe frayed nerves by saying that the U.S. government had agreed to keep Germany informed of any moves they make.

Military officials insist there won't be a wholesale shift east. The military has invested a lot of money in many of their major bases in Germany in recent years and soldiers' families are at home in Germany.

But the country's strict environmental regulations have made it difficult for the U.S. military to find places to train, and the distance from future flash points in Central Asia and Africa are considerable.

Smaller, bare-bone sites

"Around 84 percent of our U.S. forces are mostly in Germany and Central Europe and that is not necessarily where the security problem is anymore," U.S. General Charles Wald, the Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces in Europe told DW-WORLD in an interview last year. "The security problem is generating itself further to the east and further to the south."

Romania, Bulgaria and Poland have already expressed an interest in hosting the U.S. military. The potential plan is to set up small "forward operating sites" or "forward operating locations" in those countries that could host anything from airstrips to training facilities.

The Pentagon also wants the size of the military reduced and increase its mobility. The Base Re-Alignment and Closure program foresees a cut in 20 percent excess base capacity at a savings of $6.3 billion annually, according to the Pentagon.

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