8,500 US troops may soon move to Eastern Europe, strengthening the US military presence on the continent since the end of the Cold War.
News of a possible deployment announced by the Pentagon on January 24, 2022 comes as Russia and the United States continue to confront a growing crisis in Ukraine.
We are a team of researchers who study the deployment of US troops and how they affect the security, perceptions, economy, social sector and environment of host countries. Understanding the changing US military commitment to European countries helps us understand what is at stake for the credibility of Europe and America in the region.
President Joe Biden indicated during a press conference on January 19 that the US would increase its military presence in NATO countries in Eastern Europe as it prepared to do if Russia invades Ukraine. Just days later, he directed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to put thousands of US troops on high alert for deployment to Eastern Europe.
The decision was taken by the Pentagon as the US with its obligations to protect the security of NATO allies.
While Biden acknowledged that Ukraine is not a member of NATO, he emphasized that neighboring countries are Poland and Romania, and that the US has an obligation to protect them. Deploying a larger military – potentially to strengthen NATO’s current presence in those two countries – would fulfill that obligation.
The US and Russia have historically been careful not to place troops in places that would be considered provoking. They generally avoid each other’s sphere of influence, even when responding to the other’s deployment. Yet NATO allies in Eastern Europe, many of which were Soviet satellite states, provide a gray area that both the US and Russia can see within their sphere of influence. History of the US Army in Europe
Since the end of World War II, the United States has stationed hundreds of thousands of service members in Europe. These deployments were important not only in stabilizing post-war Western Europe, but also in increasing American influence in the post-war environment.
Interaction between the US and European countries during this period included the creation of a series of institutions to help structure the rules and norms of international relations. These organizations have remained in part because the United States provides security commitments to countries that accept and promote them. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military alliance established in 1949 as a bulwark for Soviet expansionism, was at the heart of these efforts.
At its peak in the late 1950s, the U.
The S’ presence in Europe consisted of about 430,000 troops, stationed in places such as West Germany and the UK.
After the end of the Cold War, NATO sought to redefine its mission from a mission that controlled Russian aggression more generally for European stability. This change in mission coincided with the expansion of NATO membership in Central and Eastern European countries, such as Hungary and Poland, and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. With NATO membership there were new deployments of US service members to these countries.
NATO has also sought to expand its relations with non-member states throughout Eastern and Central Europe through the Membership Action Plan, which provides advice and assistance to countries wishing to join NATO.
This eastward push came in the 1990s with objections from Russia, which has long been concerned about the security of its western borders with Europe. Russia’s concern about NATO expanding its borders continues to this day, as seen in President Vladimir Putin’s demand that NATO forces withdraw from deploying in former Soviet states. A shift away from Europe?
If the US goes on with increasing its military presence in Eastern Europe, it will reverse the trend that has seen the number of US troops in Europe drop significantly since the end of the Cold War.
The September 11, 2001, attacks in particular marked a dramatic shift in where the US focused its military deployment and security concerns. The start of the war in Afghanistan in 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003 brought about massive changes in the military position of the United States globally as it focused on Central Asia and the Middle East.
In 1989, the United States had 248,621 permanent troops stationed in West Germany, 27,639 in the United Kingdom, 15,706 in Italy, and 3,382 in Greece. By September 2021, US troops had fallen to 35,457 in Germany, 9,563 in the United Kingdom, 12,434 in Italy, and 429 in Greece.
While the size of US deployments to Europe has declined dramatically since the heights of their Cold War, they are still very large relative to most other US deployments.
Without the threat of the Soviet Union, however, public opposition to foreign deployment has also increased in the post-Cold War era.
However, rising tensions with Russia in recent days have prompted US presidents to dedicate additional military aid and deployments to Poland and the Baltic states.
This trend is set to continue if the Pentagon does indeed deploy thousands of troops to Eastern Europe in the face of a threatened Russian invasion of Ukraine.
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Michael A. Allen, Associate Professor of Political Science, Boise State University, Carla Martinez Machin, Professor of Political Science, Kansas State Universityand Michael E. Flynn, associate professor of political science, Kansas State University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.