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If I recall correctly, the US maintains about 30,000 men in Germany alone and thousands more in different European countries. I understand the need to project power and to rapidly deploy to any theatre of conflict, but isn't positioning an entire army corps deep in NATO territory (now that Poland, Czech and Hungary are part of NATO/EU) a bit wasteful? I know the US can't move them to Poland without angering Russia, but why not ship everyone home and cut costs now that NATO can defend itself?

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    To protect Europe from Iran and North Korea, of course. Aug 3, 2013 at 14:53
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    We should know better, shouldn't we?
    – user1873
    Aug 3, 2013 at 20:39
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    @user1873 The founding fathers warned against standing armies, yes, but they also kept slaves, were pro-slavery, were pro-limited suffrage, and if Benedict Arnold is a traitor to his country than the founding fathers were traitors to theirs. Being the founding fathers doesn't mean they are correct in everything. Aug 5, 2013 at 12:27
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    Where else is a GI going to get amazing beer, hot Fraulein, and learn what bread is actually supposed to taste like? Aug 5, 2013 at 14:39
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    @AffableGeek - Russia? (except for beer)
    – user4012
    Aug 6, 2013 at 18:26

5 Answers 5

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Military bases are difficult to decommission-- the host country is faced with a sudden vacuum in the local economy and a chunk of real estate that likely qualifies as a hazardous waste site, so even closing redundant bases is often opposed locally.

Strategic significance isn't always obvious. Rather than having boots on the ground in case the Soviets cross the Elbe, it's often more important that there's clear airspace to a potential hot zone and a large support cadre available to handle logistics. Rammstein AFB in Germany operates as a significant logistics hub for the current conflicts in the Middle East and Italy hosts quite a lot of our Mediterranean naval presence.

Some of the historical reasons for NATO are still current. Anti-ballistic missile placement vs Russia is an ongoing project.

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The U.S. has military bases in many countries all over the world because it serves their security interests to have lots of large bases. It makes it near impossible logistically for a potential enemy to mount an attack on all bases, so there should always be a sizable amount troops for reinforcement/counterattack. They also serve as more convenient targets than the continental U.S. for attacks and aren't full of civilians so if one does get attacked its preferable to. Despite the cold war being over, the U.S. still isn't exactly friendly with Russia. These bases are also a military defense subsidy for the host country, a large army base that you aren't paying for upkeep on but contains soldiers will aid in your defense should you be attacked is a huge benefit. These bases are also partially responsible for the relative peace in Europe, its a lot harder for one country to attack another when they both have large amounts of soldiers from a third country that could take either side in a potential conflict. The U.S. has bases all over Europe because it is mutually beneficial for the U.S. and host countries.

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  • Do you have any citations or evidence for these claims?
    – Publius
    Aug 6, 2013 at 1:08
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    Alot of your claims do not make sense. If the US was aiming at Russia, then they should position their troops closer to the actual NATO border, i.e. in Romania, Poland, Slovakia and Bulgaria, and not in the middle the Eurozone in South Germany. Besides, the EU does not need a peacekeeper anymore, now with the Eurozone. Nor did they need one since WW2 (excepting a bulwark against Warsaw Pact). German citizens can travel across France without a passport since the 50's. Aug 6, 2013 at 15:04
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    "the EU does not need a peacekeeper anymore" - [citation needed]
    – user4012
    Aug 6, 2013 at 18:28
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    @RobinGreen - I have several hundreds years of history that says you're wrong
    – user4012
    Dec 7, 2013 at 14:50
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    @DVK - are you so ignorant as to fail to see what the reality is like in Europe? What would an army corps in Germany achieve when a Spanish citizen can drive all the way to Poland with no consequence? Please actually know something before you try to comment it with something as patronising as "citation needed". The EU will not erupt in conflict, especially when they have a village idiot over the pond to make fun of (USA) Jan 26, 2014 at 23:23
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The United States has Military bases where they are so that they can deploy troops to those areas faster and more easily.

Being able to deploy as quickly and easily as we are, is one of the major reasons why the US military is as powerful as it is. Having bases around the world makes the US military stronger.

http://thediplomat.com/2011/12/02/puncturing-the-u-s-base-myths/
http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0115-08.htm

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    You can argue why the US needs to have a strong military presence everywhere, but that's for another topic. Sep 4, 2013 at 18:26
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It is the legacy of the European nations refusing to pay for their own defence.

During the cold war various entreaties were made and accepted by the european states to have at least 5% of their GDP used to provide for their self defence. Only the UK, and I think maybe Greece, complied.

Due to this unwillingness the US was forced to retain credible forces of their own, both to strengthen their doctrine of deterrence, to provide a tripwire and in case of a purely conventional war. Much of the US conventional weapons budget went on equipment to thwart a mass armoured attack into Europe leaving them with legacy equipment that had a long shelf life.

This remains the case, where heavy tanks and massed artillery are of limited use in asymmetric warfare yet have to be based somewhere. Hence whilst artillery brigades dual-role as light infantry their heavy equipment still has to live somewhere, which in this case is the specially built and equipped european bases.

In short the American taxpayer picked up the bill whilst the european states concentrated on their economies.

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    Just a rant about the Cold War with no actual information. Your 'heavy equipment' could be stored in the US, and you don't explain in the slightest why it would be stored in Europe. Dec 7, 2013 at 17:08
  • The US sees advantages in spending more on defense than anyone else. The US worked to stop European allies getting nuclear weapons by advocating non-proliferation and discouraging other countries' nuclear programs. There are strategic advantages to having the largest military. And in particular if you have lots of your troops in a friendly country, it should stop that country becoming less friendly.
    – Stuart F
    Dec 6, 2023 at 14:52
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isn't positioning an entire army corps deep in NATO territory (... Poland, Czech and Hungary...) a bit wasteful?

Not really, it's easier to attack Russia that way.

... why not ship everyone home and cut costs now that NATO can defend itself?

Because NATO is an alliance for attack more than for defense. It has expanded eastward, posturing aggressively against Russia all the way to (part of) its border, and has fomented, or exacerbated a civil war within Ukraine, which over the past two years has become a NATO-vs-Russia proxy war with Ukraine as the battlefield and its army and government as the proxy.

Thus, today, and in hindsight to 10 years ago, NATO wants to maintain strong military presence in mainland Europe, due east, as a strong starting position for a potential future confronation. And after all, NATO has also "recognized the atlantic aspirations" of Georgia, not just the Ukraine.

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  • @sabbahillel: With due respect - it does answer the question, literally and substantively. The fact that the answer is short and worded cynically does not make it a non-answer.
    – einpoklum
    Feb 7, 2017 at 19:15
  • OK I will withdraw my comment. I would suggest that you add the tripwire aspect as well. Feb 7, 2017 at 19:21
  • NATO has expanded towards Russia because the countries in between don't want to be invaded by Russia (again).
    – Caleth
    Dec 6, 2023 at 14:31
  • @Caleth: No, that's not why NATO has expanded towards Russia.
    – einpoklum
    Dec 6, 2023 at 14:32
  • Every country that joined asked to join. And in hindsight they were correct in doing so. Finland wasn't neutral because they didn't like NATO, but because the last time they were invaded from Russia the peace terms included them not joining alliances.
    – Caleth
    Dec 6, 2023 at 14:34

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