Medals & Misfires

MEDAL: Reversing the drawdown in Europe

The plan to spend about $200 million to fix and build U.S. air bases in Eastern Europe is a new step toward reversing the post-Cold War drawdown in Europe that proved to be, in some ways, too steep.

The latest U.S. defense spending plan provides money to construct installations in Iceland, Norway and much of Eastern Europe.

That will make it easier for the U.S. Air Force to preposition aircraft — like the high-tech F-22 and F-35 — and aviation support in the renewed effort to deter Russia and reassure NATO allies. The money will also be used for improving airfields, training centers and ranges in Europe.

“We’re back,” is what the U.S. military would like to say about Europe. But the reality is that the U.S. military is coming back by degrees from a low point that in retrospect seems startling.

Four years ago, the U.S. Army rolled its last tanks out of Europe after decades of a strong Cold War presence. And soon afterward, Russia moved to invade Ukraine’s Crimea region and step up aggression in the Black Sea.

Since then, the U.S. has redeployed tanks, airpower and logistical support, and launched heal-to-toe armored brigade deployments to Europe. In December, Army officials said they are looking at larger deployments to Europe, according to Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who retired recently after serving as commander of U.S. Army Europe.

The U.S. needs to “achieve the same strategic effect with 30,000 that we did with 300,000” troops in the Cold War, Hodges claimed.

Much more remains to be done.

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