The United States has launched talks
with its allies on its plans to re-align its worldwide military posture to better
deal with 21st century challenges like terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
Two top U.S. officials met Monday with NATO ambassadors to discuss the changes,
which are widely expected to lead to base closures in Western Europe.
The two U.S. envoys, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith and Undersecretary
of State Marc Grossman, told reporters that Washington has not yet made any
final decisions on moving troops from Cold War-era bases in Germany to bases
in Eastern Europe that are closer to potential trouble spots.
But Mr. Feith made it clear that the Defense Department's new force structure
will reflect the fact that seven eastern European countries are joining NATO
next year. "The recent expansion of NATO, which has been a great strengthening
of the alliance, is an important new reality. And a lot of the current force
posture in Europe is based on the realities of the Cold War, and so adjustments
are going to have to be made to take into account that the alliance is larger
and stronger than it was a few years ago," he said.
Although the plans for realigning the U.S. force structure have a worldwide
scope, Mr. Feith and Mr. Grossman have begun a series of consultations designed
to explain the changes with visits to a dozen European capitals, including
The U.S. military has long wanted to move its personnel out of permanent
bases in Europe, such as those in Germany that house about 80,000 troops and
their families, to forward operating facilities that would allow them to deploy
more quickly into crisis situations.
Secretary of State Colin Powell told the NATO allies last week that U.S.
basing arrangements in Europe are obsolete and need to adapt to new threats
like terrorism and reflect the advances in technology and mobility that U.S.
military forces have acquired.
But Mr. Feith declined to set a timetable for any redeployments. "We are
not at the point where specific decisions are going to be discussed, let alone
announced, on moving particular units from here to there. What we are looking
at is how do we make sure that we have capabilities in Europe that will allow
the NATO alliance to remain capable and sustainable and relevant for decades
ahead," he said.
Although he says he is sensitive to the fact that base closures can affect
local economies, Mr. Feith says some changes may be made as early as next year.