The Future U.S. Military Presence in Europe

Forces and Requirements for the Post-Cold War Era

by Richard L. Kugler

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Over the next few years, the United States will be significantly reducing its military forces in Europe from their late-1980s strength of about 300,000 troops. This report considers how far this drawdown should go and how many troops should be left behind, focusing on the post-1995 period. The author develops four options for sizing the future U.S. presence, each representing a distinct choice in terms of policy, strategy, and capability: Forward Presence, Dual-Based Presence, Limited Presence, and Symbolic Presence. The author finds that a strong case can be made for a posture of forward presence, which alone meets the requirements flowing from all U.S. goals while maintaining flexibility for the future. Militarily, this option provides an operationally coherent force that can conduct major independent combat missions in Europe on short notice. Also, this posture provides a wide range of diverse capabilities for meeting peacetime needs, while fulfilling the broad spectrum of crisis and wartime requirements — small and large — that might arise on a time-urgent basis. Politically, this posture is attractive because it projects a weighty U.S. military presence onto the European continent, thereby reminding all nations that the United States is a European power with vital interests there. This posture would also help maintain NATO's unity under U.S. leadership, reassure allies, and credibly warn potential adversaries. It would contribute to maintaining a military balance of power and encouraging a cooperative security architecture in Europe. Finally, it would help foster the kind of geostrategic stability that encourages progress toward a peaceful and united continent in close partnership with the United States.

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