European Stars and Stripes
January 3, 2000
Scope Of NATO-U.S. Missions To Broaden
By Gregory Piatt, Stars and Stripes
MONS, Belgium — As NATO evolves in the next decade, U.S. troops in Europe will focus on the eastern and southern parts of the continent, U.S. officials and analysts say.
They say instead of the main concentration of U.S. troops based in Germany, they will be in Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey and maybe Poland. Others say the military will be based in those countries and in Germany to provide stability and guidance, but much of their mission will be to operate beyond NATO frontiers.
"The U.S. will be doing things in Europe and will use Europe as a base," said Robert Hunter, the U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization from 1993 to 1997. "I wouldn’t be surprised if you see more weight [troop concentration] in southeastern Europe."
U.S. Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe, agreed.
"There is a need for troops to shift southeastward," Clark said in an interview.
That need for troops surely will be in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and maybe the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, said Hunter, now a senior analyst with the RAND think tank in Washington. But the need may not be limited to those areas, he said in a telephone interview.
Poland and Slovakia also could host U.S. troops, even though there isn’t a consensus to send troops there now, said George Friedman, chairman of STRATFOR Inc., a global intelligence services company based in Austin, Texas. A revival of Russian military and political power along with further NATO expansion and U.S. policy reaching out to the states of the former Soviet Union could alienate Russia, Friedman said. "They would then be forced to respond by massing troops along the Polish border."
Unlike the change brought on by the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s — when U.S. troops in Europe shrank from more than 300,000 to the current level of 109,000 on the ground and at sea — U.S. troop strength in Europe will stay roughly the same as it is today, Hunter said.
U.S. officials are committed to Europe and plan to keep a troop presence on the continent, Hunter and a senior State Department official said. But that troop presence will not be on the continent "to defend the Europeans from imminent threat of attack," the State Department official said.
"We are in Europe as a partner," the official said at a NATO foreign ministers meeting in mid-December.
It will be a strategic partnership with NATO nations, but most likely will include non-NATO nations, too, the official said. It could include a different set of strategic issues and military missions than the United States and the alliance currently face. The official didn’t say where the exact threats or missions would be, but added the road map of U.S. policy in Europe and where the military might be in the next 10 years lies in what was put forth during NATO’s past three summits. That policy was made official in April at the last NATO summit in Washington.
Leaders pledged to defend each other, expand the alliance, build partnerships with surrounding countries, operate outside the boundaries of NATO’s sphere, tackle the proliferation of biological and nuclear weapons, and encourage European allies to take more responsibility for their own strategic and foreign policy. Many of these initiatives set down at the summit have U.S. and NATO troops covering a wider area, said Dan Goure, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
"They [the U.S. and NATO] will be looking at the Caucasus, central Asia, north Africa, and the Middle East because of oil," Goure said in a telephone interview. "U.S. troops will likely be in Turkey to help stop refugee flows that will lead to Turkey because it will likely become a member of the European Union sometime in the next decade."
Once EU allies begin to handle EU strategic and foreign policy, the U.S. won’t be devoting much energy toward them, a senior NATO diplomat told Stars and Stripes.
"Obviously, 10 years from now, the U.S. will still be engaged in a lot of issues on a global level," the diplomat said. "But [the U.S.] won’t be working as much with European allies as perhaps with other partners and allies in the world."
New NATO members and countries participating in the alliance’s Partnership for Peace program could provide U.S. and NATO troops with a beachhead into this expanded area, U.S. officials said.
In November, when President Clinton visited Bulgaria —which hopes to become a NATO member soon —that Balkan country’s president, Peter Stoyanov, offered the U.S. and the alliance use of Bulgarian bases.
"I stated that Bulgaria is ready to provide military infrastructure facilities to be used by NATO forces under the Partnership for Peace agreement," Stoyanov said in a press conference after his meeting with Clinton.
Stoyanov said those facilities would include airfields and ammunition dumps. The Bulgarian president also raised the issue of deploying U.S. or NATO troops in the country even before it becomes a member of the alliance. But Bulgaria might not be the only place where U.S. and NATO troops will be stationed. The alliance has other offers, Clark said.
"Several countries have made appeals for a NATO element or permanent presence," the general said.