Keeping U.S. Troops in Europe

The Real Reason Why

by Robert A. Levine

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The political capability to keep U.S. troops in Europe is suffering from the collapse of the explicit military rationale that has been used to support those forces: the need to deter and defend against a massive Soviet attack against Western Europe. The likelihood of such an all-out attack has been decreasing steadily for a long time; it is clearly close to zero now. For many years, the real reasons for the U.S. presence have been far broader than this expressed rationale, and the U.S. troop presence remains important to American interests for the same reasons. This Note explores this basic need for a continuing presence of U.S. troops in Europe to support continued U.S. interests, including (1) defense against military threats smaller than a massive Soviet attack, or stemming from a reversal of current favorable Soviet trends; (2) continuation of the favorable Soviet trends; (3) stability — rapid removal of U.S. troops could substitute revived suspicions and rivalries for hopes and cooperation; (4) continued democratization of Eastern Europe, which remains an American ideological as well as strategic interest; (5) U.S. prosperity, which is closely connected to European prosperity; and (6) the voice in many European economic, political, and security matters that the U.S. troop presence gives the United States.

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