View Full Version : US plans to cut troops in Europe by a third

lucky wilbury
02-03-2004, 10:27 PM

US plans to cut troops in Europe by a third
By Judy Dempsey in Brussels
Published: February 3 2004 21:59 | Last Updated: February 3 2004 21:59

The US is preparing to cut the number of troops stationed in Europe by up to a third, diplomats said on Tuesday. This will be one of the biggest reductions since American soldiers were first based there after the second world war.

Washington will not establish new permanent bases in eastern Europe - allaying fears that the Pentagon was preparing to punish some countries of "old Europe" for their opposition to the US-led war against Iraq.

"If anything, the troops taken out of Europe will be sent home," said a Nato diplomat. "From there, they will be sent on exercises or training missions to small bases established on a temporary basis in Poland, Romania or Bulgaria. The old days of the giant US barracks . . . are over."

Romania and Bulgaria will be disappointed by the news, although east European diplomats played down their concerns. "We will be delighted if we now get a little base," one said.

The US has 119,000 troops in Europe, 80,000 of which are stationed in Germany. At the height of the Cold War, Washington had more than 300,000 troops in western Europe.

Russia has warned against moves by Nato or the US to shift forces eastwards once seven new countries, all former communist states, join the European Union in May.

In Moscow last week Colin Powell, US secretary of state, told Vladimir Putin, Russian president, that Washington had no intention of encircling Russia.

"We are not looking to move bases, of the kind we used to have during the Cold War, closer to Russia just to put a base closer to Russia," said Mr Powell.

Diplomats said the Pentagon was set on creating highly flexible, small units that could be moved quickly to temporary bases. General Jones, the US commander in Europe and Nato's military chief, wants to create these structures for Nato as well.

Mr Powell and Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, are not preparing to cut the number of troops in one sweep.

"The US is still consulting a great deal with all its allies. It has yet to make the final decision over what bases will be closed," said a German diplomat.

"Much is at stake. Entire villages have built their future around the bases, particularly in Germany. You just can't destroy those 60-year-old relationships."

A Pentagon spokesman denied that any decision had been taken on troop reduction levels, saying discussions were still ongoing.

Nato officials said the US would not close Ramstein, its biggest military base in southern Germany, as it is a key strategic asset for US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.