The U.S. Military Presence in a Changing Southern Region

Issues and Options

by Ian O. Lesser

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This Note explores issues and options related to the basing of U.S. and allied forces in NATO's Southern Region — Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey — against the background of a changing strategic environment in Europe and around the Mediterranean. Political and strategic developments point toward an "expanding" Southern Region, with possible contingencies stretching from the Atlantic approaches to the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. Potential Mediterranean scenarios requiring a U.S. military response, ranging from small peacekeeping or humanitarian assistance operations to large-scale intervention include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) a renewed "eastern" threat to the Southern Region, (2) regional aggression against Turkey, (3) conflict between Greece and Turkey, (4) instability or conflict in the Balkans, (5) defense of the Suez Canal, (6) instability or conflict involving North Africa, and (7) a Moroccan threat to the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Mililla. The options for Southern Region basing and force structure in a new strategic environment include the creation of a mobile air defense force under NATO auspices; maintaining traditional levels of U.S. naval presence in the Mediterranean; and supporting the formation of a multinational rapid-reaction force within NATO.

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