Soon after President Barack Obama unveiled the U.S. Defense Department’s latest strategic guidance in early 2012, his administration cut the Army’s presence in Europe by half.
The decision to withdraw two of the four brigades stationed on the continent meant that as many as 10,000 troops, plus their support personnel, would be eliminated as part of the effort to reduce the Army’s size. The administration calculated that stability on the continent meant its European allies would begin contributing more to ensure security, letting the U.S. pay greater attention to the Asia-Pacific.
After Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea last week and ordered a troop buildup along the country’s border with Ukraine, the decision to reduce the U.S. military presence in Europe must be reexamined, said retired U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis, the former supreme allied commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization from 2009 to 2013.
“I supported the decision to downsize forces in Europe,” Stavridis, who’s now dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, said in a phone interview. “But I think times are changing, and I think it’d be prudent to revisit that decision in light of events of the last 30 days” because European allies are seeking the reassurance of “having committed U.S. ground forces.”
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