U.S. and Polish paratroopers begin exercises in Poland, April 2014. Getty Images
Back in the Middle?
U.S. Needs New Bases in Central Europe

President Obama sounded the right notes in Warsaw last week when he reassured Central Europeans of America’s commitment to NATO. Now he needs to back that commitment by shoring up Europe’s northeast.

Published on: June 11, 2014
Andrew A. Michta is the M.W. Buckman Professor of International Studies at Rhodes College and a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).
show comments
  • Andrew Allison

    U.S. Needs Less Bases in Europe! It’s time for Europe to defend itself!

    • Fat_Man


    • Corlyss

      Andrew, you are whistling past the graveyard, same as Obama. Europeans are not capable of defending themselves: all they have are token forces who can make a moderately credible demonstration against disorganized African tribes, no matter how many AK 47s the latter have. In order to avoid having to show how fragmented and ineffective they are, the Europeans will NEVER identify a threat as a threat until they are at the Dunkirk stage.

      • rheddles

        EUropeans can’t defend themselves? We’re talking about Germans here. They can defend themselves. But it’s hard work. And why bother when the Americans will do it for them?

        • Boritz

          We need a re-militarized Germany, I guess. Although it bothers me a little that their word for sandwich means ‘occupied bread’.

          • Corlyss

            LOLOL Ah idioms . . . !

        • Corlyss

          Not with their post-WW2 mindset they can’t. In Afpakia all they were good for was sitting around drinking beer. They have lost the militant culture.

      • Erik Johannessen

        You’re another ignorant American I see. You’re so proud of your loud, overpriced and incompetent military and you blatantly LIE about other nations. European peoples were defending themselves long before the US was even an idea, you ignorant Yank. Today, that’s still the case. There are nearly three times as many armed men and women (standing) in Europe compared to Russia. Why don’t you get the hell out of our continent and stop interfering in our politics!

        • Corlyss

          “European peoples were defending themselves long before the US was even an idea,”

          And not very well, if the last 400+ years of history is any indication.

          “Why don’t you get the hell out of our continent and stop interfering in our politics!”
          Because your history is that of fratricidal obsessions that set the rest of the world on fire.

          • Erik Johannessen

            Last 400 years? What do you even know? Seems the European nations defended themselves fine considering several of them built empires (not that I support empires). You’re not even making any sense.

            As for the supposed “fratricidial” obsession, a) European nations aren’t “siblings” to begin with and b) it’s none of your business even if it were true. Stay the f*** out!

    • Erik Johannessen

      We already defend ourselves. You can go home now.

      • Andrew Allison

        Nonsense. “During the Cold War, the U.S.accounted for roughly 50% of defense spending by NATO members. Now after years of shrinking defense budgets in Europe, the U.S. share is more than 75%.

        But at least we are agreed that the US should go home.

        • Erik Johannessen

          What does US domestic defence spending have to do with your false claim that a whole continent of peoples cant defend themselves? You fail at logic.

          • Andrew Allison

            And you at literacy. The US is contributing 75% of the cost of NATO, an organization established to defend Europe from the Soviet Union and, at least according the the Prime Minister of Poland, still doing so. Furthermore, I did not claim that a whole continent can’t defend itself, just that it should. Try actually reading comments before firing off ad hominem attacks.

          • Erik Johannessen

            The NATO figure is irrelevant. That’s my point.

          • Andrew Allison

            And mine is that you didn’t do so well last time: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quisling

          • Erik Johannessen

            We shot our traitor. You awarded yours with business deals, like granddaddy Prescott Bush and his deals with Hitler. Oh, and have you heard of the German-American Bundt? The US had the largest pro-Nazi organisation outside of Nazi Germany. We were brutally attacked and occupied under a fascist German dictatorship. What was YOUR excuse?

          • Corlyss

            How can it be irrelevant when you guys can’t make a move without us organizing you? That’s why you can’t defend yourselves. If you could point to anything you’ve done overtly since 1946 I’d like to know about it. Not that I object so much before the fall of the Soviet Union, but since then? Com’on. Sometime the teenager has to grow up and leave home to take care of himself.

          • Erik Johannessen

            NATO spending =/= national defence spending. You’re not making any sense. The expenses for NATO operations has quite lierally nothing to do with a member’s overall national defence. You’re ut plain wrong.

            What European nations have done since 1946? Stay out of senseless wars (largely) that didn’t concern us, for example, although several European nations were in Vietnam. Same with Iraq and Affghanistan. Starting senseless wars and bungling them up is nothing to be proud of, they’re also not akin to defending yourselves. Rather, they’re “definding” private military contracts and big oil.

  • Pete

    What’s next, Michta, make Poland our 51st state? Will that satisfy you?

    • Breif2

      Here’s my attempt at getting your support: There are roughly 70,000 US military personnel deployed in Europe, with 40,000 in Germany. Let’s redeploy half of them to Poland and the Baltic states, and bring the other half home. Deal? 🙂

      • Corlyss

        Why should Obama assign any to Poland? He’s not going to let them fight, so why exercise his friendbuddypal Vlad?

        • Pete

          Corlyss, as I see it, the problem with beefing American forces in Eastern Europe is that they will be there after B. Hussein Obama is gone.

          Please no more trip wires.

      • Pete

        Okay. That’s a good start.

        Brother, you got more brains than what’s in the State Department or whatever bureaucracy where such decisions are made.

        • Corlyss

          Those decisions are made by DoD, not State, in implementing national policy. One of the reasons the early days in Iraq were such a freakin’ mess was because State, together with their natural ally the CIA, spent a lot of energy and political capital interfering with DoD’s prosecution of the peace. In wartime, State is about as useful as udders on a bull.

          • frug

            Those decisions are made by DoD, not State, in implementing national policy.

            That is true.

            One of the reasons the early days in Iraq were such a freakin’ mess was
            because State, together with their natural ally the CIA, spent a lot of
            energy and political capital interfering with DoD’s prosecution of the

            That, on the other hand, is a load of crap. The biggest mistakes of the early part of the occupation were all DoD calls.

            Not sending in the extra troops that were originally planned for in summer 2003? Franks and Rumsfeld.

            The disbanding of the Iraqi Army and complete deBathification? Paul Bremer.
            (In fact, State and CIA specifically advised against mass deBathification saying only the very top members of the party, cabinet level ministers and those specifically accused of crimes against humanity should be removed only to be overruled by Douglas Feith and Bremer).

            The fact is, the biggest problem with the war (besides the fact it was even begun) was that the DoD took the early lead on the occupation and rebuilding effort only to have no idea what they were doing.

  • ShadrachSmith

    You believe Obama’s promises? Why?

  • AndrewL

    We should first fulfill our commitments to our wounded veterans before making commitments to foreign countries. No new bases overseas until all of our veterans are off the wait list!

    • Corlyss

      The explosion of PTSD diagnoses, whether justified or not, have caused a lot of the VA overload.

      There’s a credible case to be made that 40 years of post Viet Nam therapeutic culture that has continually reinforced the idea that “soldiers are inherently too weak mentally and emotionally to deal with the consequences of their combat service.” 70 years ago, men knew they had an obligation of service; they went to war; they sucked it up; and they didn’t end up suicidal social basket cases. Instead they came home, went to school, started businesses and families, and got on with their lives. War is more remote and less lethal for American soldiers than ever before, and yet the therapeutic culture has labored mightily to make the case that war is too costly to the individual and the individual is too mentally fragile to allow the nation to employ violence in pursuit of its rightful national interest, even when that interest is existential. The result is a VA delivery system on the point of collapse.

  • Anthony

    For an additional perspective see Robert Kagan: superpowers don’t get to retire (Foreign Policy, New Republic).

    • Jack Kalpakian

      Yes, they get replaced after catastrophic wars. The US needs to find a way to retire.

      • Corlyss

        Just off the top of my head, I’d say Obama is doing a swell job of retiring the US. It’s a silly notion, the biggest economy, the biggest military, the Keeper of the International System (not because it’s the biggest player but because others states cannot be trusted to make decisions on the basis of keeping the trade free and the oceans open for all), just packing up its tent and silently stealing away as if it no longer lived in the same world. Folks who promote this idea have no appreciation for how much their own lives would change when regional actors decide to deny the US access to markets without a sizeable payments for the privilege.

  • LarryD

    Most of the Democratic party doesn’t give a damm about Europe, and the faction that does is too small to sustain any policy. Most of the Independents and Republicans are tired of conflict without victory. Europeans are now so pacific they say they’d rather Americans laid down their arms as well.

    Given how far American Power has been eroded, and the reductions Obama is planning, we should be planning the withdrawing of American forces from Europe, not stretching them thinner.

    • Corlyss

      “Most of the Democratic party doesn’t give a damm about Europe”

      I beg to differ in this respect. They do care about Europe, what Europeans think of the US, about mimicking European policies here. They look to Europe to set the elites’ agenda, from causes to support to judicial decisions, from ag trade policy to “social justice” illusions. Here’s the difference: the Europeans are passionately devoted navel-gazers and obsessed with their own internal relations to the extent that they have convinced themselves that they will never have to have to fire a shot in anger again – at anyone. So they will never identify any threat as requiring an armed response, no matter how dire. The Dems think exactly the same thing, about Europe, and increasingly about America (see how imitative the Dems are?) That’s the difference. Dems will simply never identify a threat that requires them to respond with armed force ever again. At least not until all Dems now living are in their graves. Maybe with turnover in the population they’ll get some realists unafraid of American power and willing to use it.

      • Erik Johannessen

        You war-hungry Yanks should quit criticising European nations until you’ve had whole cities devestated by war, seen economic hardship and lost several percent of your population. Until then you can shut th hell up!

        • Corlyss

          LOL Somebody has got to look out for the international system that you Europeans profit so much from. Your remarks don’t do a thing to address the legitimate complaints about Post WW2 cavalier attitudes about their own defense, fostered I must admit by an America unwilling to turn critical decision-making over to ineffectual and quarrelling fratricidal states, although I don’t recall Norway being a leader in any of it – they’re one of histories perpetual bystanders when they aren’t being victims. Love the hunks on their Olympic curling team. Too bad national interest disputes can’t be resolved by a curling match.

          I’m not the only one that makes such observations about Europe’s defense blindness – Economist is a voice in the wilderness on this issue. Lots of hand-wringing about your indifference to Post American state of affairs. What’s your precious welfare state going to look like when you have to actually have a military that’s good for something besides spear carriers in a Victor Herbert operetta?

          • Erik Johannessen

            The “international system” is none of your business, and what “calier” attitudes are you talking about? Several nations had to rebuild after that devastating war, which you Yanks know NOTHING about aside from the usual revisionist history of the gung-ho Yank saving the world on film. Inglorious Basterds wasn’t a documentary.

            As for quarreling, again it’s none of your business, and once again you can’t be “fratricidal” if you’re not family. I know you Yanks have a hard time with geography, but Europe is a CONTINENT (say it with me: Con-Ti-Nent!) with vastly diverse cultures, languages and history.

            And we’re either bystanders or victims? You know NOTHING about our history, but here we see the usual obnoxious Yank arrogance that makes you so “loved” around the world. You may sit and stew in your own ignorance some more, and let the rest of us be.

            Again, European nations can defend themselves, they just don’t want to waste money on bombing brown people on another continent, nor are tax payers in Germany, Britain, France etc. happy to pay for this like you Yanks seem to be. If you, as a tax payer, want your money wasted on bombing Afghan weddings and killing Afghan children an grandmothers, that says a lot about you but it doesn’t change the fact that most people don’t want to fund that.

            As for our welfare state, it’s actually functional compared to your corrupt Military Industrial Complex, and we have more troops per capita than you do as well. And your “friendly fire” trigger happy teenagers are probably great at shoving filthy hamburgers down their gullets and watching Fox News 24/7. Why don’t you worry about your country and we’ll worry about ours?

    • Erik Johannessen

      Sounds like a good idea. Goodbye.

  • IssacAdamBurke

    If the Central Europeans believe ANYTHING Barack Obama tells them, they are absolute fools. Obama is a pathological liar. They cannot depend on the USA for anything now.
    What the 16 Central European and Slavic nations should do is create a new East European Federation where they provide for their own joint defense – and create a new economic powerhouse. Neither NATO nor the European Union is a real solution for these nations. This new EEF would extend from the Baltic to the Black Sea to the Med. (Let Georgia join as well.) It could easily have more troops and military assets than the Russians. It could also have a freer economic framework than the EU, without a Brussels elite dictating their economic policies and laws to them.
    The Slavs have been talking about this for almost 200 years. It is now time to make it a reality.

  • Jack Kalpakian

    The US needs bases in Europe like a meth-head “needs” Ice. This is self-serving and self-perpetuating drivel from the Atlanticist establishment that has protected Europe at the expense of domestic welfare for the last sixty plus years, enough already, let Europe protect itself or reach a modus vivendi with Russia on its own.

  • xvicex

    The last sentence sums it up. “In other words, fine speech, Mr. President; now what do we do”…Obama says a lot.

    Lets be blunt.. until he is gone serious things like this are going to be left to happenstance and the utter naivety of Hope. While he rambles on about himself and blames everyone else.

  • pnkearns

    If it’s NATO problem, build a NATO base and stuff it with NATO European allies like Germans, French, Italians, etc.

    It’s time Europe funds its own defense.

    • Erik Johannessen

      European nations already fund their own defence.

      • PKCasimir

        At insufficient levels to pose a credible military force. And with armies unwilling to go into harm’s way and actually fight. Witness the Germans, French, and Italians in Afghanistan.

        • Erik Johannessen

          In that case, you must think Russia’s military is LAUGHABLE, considering the EU zone has a VASTLY bigger and more superior military. The EU zone military budget is almost three times as high as the Russian one, for instance. The combined standing army (EU) is higher than the US and Russian one. The thing is that unlike the US, European nations focus on self-defence rather than bombing brown people far away.

          • Corlyss

            “In that case, you must think Russia’s military is LAUGHABLE, considering the EU zone has a VASTLY bigger and more superior military.”

            In case you didn’t notice America’s behavior under Obama, the size of the military is irrelevant as long as 1) political leaders are unwilling to deploy it and 2) even if they agree that something should be done, they can’t agree on what.

            That, Erik, is the crux of the problem with Europe to the extent that one needs a plausible reason beyond “unwilling to ever identify a threat requiring the use of force.” It’s rather like the US mainstream media’s attitude toward Democratic failures: as long as they refuse to acknowledge failure in their favorite party, they have no need ever to report on them, and as long as they don’t ever report on them, the failures effectively don’t exist. Good luck with that as a defense policy.

          • Erik Johannessen

            When something isn’t your business, you should stay away from it. You Yaks have no business in Europe in general or in the Ukraine especially. We don’t have any business there either. It’s not our concern.

            As for your politicians, I have nothing but disdain for either side’s foreign policy. You Yanks have been causing nothng but trouble since 1946. The reason is that your system is corrupt to the core, lead by the interests of the Military Industrial Complex and the big oil companies. It’s not so much a matter of politicsas it is a matter of money and power.

            You live in a society where (I assume, given your curling comments) a homosexual like yourself is discriminated against, just as the blacks, Jews and Native Americans were before. You lack political freedoms and a free press, and your government spies on you. All this while a McCarthy-style propaganda war is fought to keep you ignorant and patriotic, keeping you from questioning those very same war hawks who waste your tax dollars on war instead of building schools, hospitals, roads and making sure your bridges aren’t grade F.

          • pnkearns

            Well… if the EU zone has sufficient defense, then why not my original solution? Have the EU member nations create EU bases for their EU members in Poland and Baltic States and man, supply and fund it from EU funds.
            No need for the U.S. No need for U.S. taxpayer dollars.

          • Erik Johannessen

            Why would the EU nations do that though?

          • pnkearns

            That’s my point dude. If they won’t do it, why should the U.S.?

            Let Europe get invaded by Russia if Europeans won’t stand up and do their own defense. They have already surrendered anyway.

          • Erik Johannessen

            Why would Russia invade an entire continent? They depend on European nations for trade. Also, you act as though that would even e possible. The Russians had troule even with the nation of Georgia, so how do you suppose they’d defeat a larger and much better armed and trained (and better funded) military force? You sound silly when you write things like that.

            And Europeans won’t defend themselves? Says who? Fox News? And when did the etire continent of Europe “surrender”, and to whom? This news is new to me. Do you have a source? If you’re going to make s*** up, at least start with something plausible.

    • Corlyss

      We’ve seen what that’s like already: Bosnia and Ukraine.

      • pnkearns

        And neither Bosnia nor Ukraine were a U.S., or even NATO problem. They were European problems the U.S. was dragged into by its European allies when it became convenient for the U.S. to bail Europe out of a mess.

        • Corlyss

          The threat, and therefore the reason for US/NATO intervention in Bosnia, was and is instability on the eastern frontier. That’s exactly what Ukraine represents. Vlad has certainly realized the limits of his ability to control the rising chaos in Eastern Ukraine without invading. What happens when he does? Western Ukraine is vulnerable the same kind of agitation. I certainly don’t believe Vlad’s interested in taking more territory than the old Soviet client states, but some of them are now NATO members. Would you be interested in mounting a NATO defense of them? Or would that not be our problem either?

          • pnkearns

            Let’s be honest. Bosnia’s “instability” was really the number of refugees pouring into Italy and Germany at the time. There was an almost zero threat of Bosnia attacking a NATO ally. Western Ukraine? Again almost zero threat to a NATO ally.
            I’m saying the protection of the NATO allies is not just a U.S. responsibility. Ramp up NATO efforts by a-l-l NATO allies. It’s time our European NATO allies get off their lazy European behinds of watching and criticizing the U.S. and protect their own Europe.

  • oh, god, yes, spend more money chasing the world dominance concept . forget trying to be a good neighbor, stomp everyone!

    • Corlyss

      Another fabulist victim of anti-American propaganda.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2018 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.