Secretary of Defense Esper recently announced new changes to the US basing posture in Europe that would result in more than 10,000 troops returning to the United States from bases in Germany, followed by a relocation of military personnel to Poland, Romania and Mons, Belgium. While most of the media attention has focused on the redeployment of forces from Germany back to the United States, a new strategic decision was made by the US that will result in an increased military presence in NATO’s new front yard: the Black Sea and Poland.
The globalists and Trump haters have been railing against the withdrawal and repositioning of US forces from Germany. These repositionings should be looked at in a strategic context, not the concerns of the Germans and their lobbyists.
Strategic realities have changed since the Cold War ended and NATO expanded to the east. Germany is no longer the frontline between NATO and the Russian bear. Germany is also no longer a staging area for deployment to the Middle-east. For the first Gulf War the US deployed an entire armor corps from Germany. It was reinforced by troops for the US. Today there is no need for such deployments as the Trump administration does not anticipate fighting another Gulf War.
Why should US troops be deployed for German security? What is the threat? Why can’t the Germans defend themselves? The Germans obviously felt that they could save on defense marks (dollars) by having US troops providing for their security. Following World War II troops were deployed in Germany to prevent another world war—the re-emergence of Nazism. This threat no longer exists. Since my time in the Pentagon in the 1970s US presidents have been trying to get NATO and Germany, specifically, to pay more for its own security.
President Trump claims that NATO has increased its defense spending by over $100 billion. This is part of his stated goal to stop being the world’s policeman. Conversely, the US does seek to maintain a deterrent posture vis-à-vis Russia (and in Asia against China). This deterrent posture requires different stationing schemes. So where are the troops from Germany being restationed?
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Polish Minister of National Defence Mariusz Błaszczak signed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between their two countries in Warsaw on 15 August. President Trump and his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, agreed to the overview of the provisions of the agreement in 2019. In addition, the US presence in Poland will be increased from 4,500 to 5,500 troops and infrastructure will be built to accommodate up to 20,000 US soldiers. Poland will cover some of the costs, such as those for infrastructure and logistics that are estimated at $136 million a year.
Esper announced that a US Stryker brigade would be sent to the Black Sea in what will be the first significant US military ground forces deployment to the region. The Black Sea has been the epicenter of Russia’s revisionist ambitions since its 2008 war with Georgia and its 2014 invasion and occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea and invasion of Donbass. To highlight the changes in US defense posture in the Black Sea, Esper described the move in the following strategic terms: “Look at what we’re moving. What we’re doing is … we’re moving forces out of central Europe — Germany, where they had been since the Cold War, and we’re now moving — we’re following, in many ways, the boundary east, where our newest allies are. So into the Black Sea region … That’s why it’s a strategic laydown that enhances deterrence, strengthens the allies, reassures them.”
These forward deployments enhance deterrence and realign forces to reflect the realities that is the new European of today. For globalists this is disturbing, for true strategists it is a final reflection of new realities. The US is putting the US first.