[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

Risky European Defense Cuts
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2011


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] President Barack Obama is engaged in a massive realignment of the American Military -- shifting resources and locales for deployment. Unfortunately, reductions called for in Europe could undermine the vital interests of the United States.

The Cold War is over, the reasoning goes. Russia is no longer a threat to our European allies. All our troops are doing is giving a boost to the German economy, which is already strong enough, so this is a safe place to cut.

There are a number of fallacies with this reasoning. Accepting it will compromise American strategic interests.

To start with, we have already cut significantly in Europe. In 1989, the United States had 213,000 troops in Europe. It now has about 41,000. And recently, the Pentagon announced its plan to eliminate two of the Army's four brigades in Europe--each with about 5,000 soldiers.

Moreover, the evil Soviet Empire may be dead, but emerging from its ashes is a potentially dangerous new Russia under the former KGB spy master, Putin, which could make trouble in Europe absent an offsetting powerful U.S. military. Russia's current defense of its long time Syrian ally, Assad, demonstrates that Russia is looking for situations to confront the United States and Western Europe.

But Russia is not the only trouble spot in the European region. Conflicts involving Georgia; and Kosovo's border with Serbia are two others. Turkey, under the increasingly aggressive Erdogan, may have to be contained.

Then there are the geographic considerations. We are not planning to abandon the Middle East. Certainly not while it supplies the oil which is the lifeblood of the American economy. Europe is a lot closer to the Middle East than Norfolk, San Diego, or North Carolina. Our ability to deploy rapidly in the Middle East will be greatly impeded if we have shuttered our bases in Europe and gone home.

These strategic risks are very real. Iran threatens to block freedom of navigation. An attack by Shiite Iran on Sunni Saudi Arabia is a real possibility. With Syria imploding, tensions in neighboring Lebanon could erupt. Just as the United States intervened to save Kuwait in the first Gulf War, we could be required to enter another Middle Eastern fray.

If we are gone from Europe, this intervention would be more difficult.Once we have pulled out of Europe, it would not be a simple matter to come back in.

For all of these reasons the simplistic analysis that says: Let's leave Europe to the Europeans must be rejected. After all, the Europeans' intervention in Libya showed them to be ineffectual. Even in that limited operation against a weak adversary, the Europeans ran out of munitions and had to order them from Washington on an emergency basis. They also lacked the capability to refuel their planes. Unfortunately, this operation demonstrated that the Europeans are not qualified to pick up the slack if the United States withdraws.

Moreover, the European military capability will diminish in the future as the new austerity has gripped European nations and is convulsing their economies. They are reducing their defense budgets in this difficult economic situation. Britain and Germany have announced troop reductions which will shrink their armies by twenty percent. Italy and Germany are cancelling orders for righter jets and other weapons systems.

One of Obama's reasons for these European reductions is that we have to increase our forces in the Pacific to face the enhanced Chinese military and the threat that poses to the region. Another is that U.S. budget considerations require cuts somewhere and Europe seems to be the best choice.

These are valid considerations. However, they do not justify compromising American strategic interests. Those would be well served by a continued strong American presence in Europe.