Bulgaria, Romania with Abundant Options for US Bases*

Views on BG | April 29, 2003, Tuesday // 00:00

By George Allen

The Washington Times

Constanza is a port on Romania's Black Sea coast. No statues of Saddam were toppled there. No shots were fired on those shores. However, it is where an important contribution was made to winning the war against Saddam.

The port city of Constanza is located almost halfway between Berlin and Baghdad. There, on the friendly edge of Europe, Romania welcomed more than 1000 U.S. troops deployed to disarm and liberate Iraq. In solidarity with the coalition against Iraq, Romania opened its airfields as an "air bridge" to the Gulf, and through Constanza were moved many of the essential tools for victory. The men, women, equipment and supplies of the coalition flowed into the Persian Gulf region not just in massive numbers, but at precisely the right time, in precisely the right order, with precisely the right mix of resources to deliver victory. Constanza, and resources that Central European states provided, truly facilitated our successful military action.

The war was also won with the assistance of Bulgaria, where U.S. forces utilized an airbase at Sarafovo on the Black Sea. It was won with Slovakia, which sent a contingent of anti-chemical weapons specialists to Kuwait, and with Poland, which sent special forces to fight alongside U.S. troops. But, the deployment of U.S. forces in Romania provides a window into the future regarding the way the U.S. may reallocate permanent force structures in Europe.

Our strategic view of the world began to shift long before September 11, 2001. The Soviet Union dominated nations are now free and independent. Now, we have learned that the passing of the Soviet threat was not an end to all threats, that new dangers have arisen and that they must be addressed where they present themselves. In that context, the execution of the Iraq war invites an important question as we plan for future conflicts that may arise: Do our bases in long-time NATO countries by themselves provide the best possible location of our forces. Certainly, we should retain forces in the long-standing NATO nations. However, after Iraq, it is clear that we must seriously consider new options that are available to us, including in southeastern Europe.

For nearly 60 years, we have had bases on the territory of NATO partners. Chief among these is Germany where we have more than 80,000 troops. Most of our troops wounded in Iraq were evacuated to U.S. medical facilities in Germany, even though it is 2,200 miles from Baghdad. We supported deployment to Iraq from long-established U.S. and NATO bases in Europe. But, this time we set up temporary bases in other parts of Europe, in countries like Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and others. These nations are, or soon will be, the newest members of NATO and each of them, with recent memories of life under repressive regimes, was a stalwart and vocal member of our coalition to disarm Saddam and liberate Iraq.

Basing options in Central southeastern Europe are abundant. They include strategically located ports like Constanza and dozens of other existing facilities that provide versatility in responding to threats from the Middle East and Central Asia. Many were built in the Soviet era, but have been modified to achieve interoperability with NATO, and to conform with logistical NATO doctrine.

The advantages of those options are:
• They are closer to current threats. Since even before September 11, it has been clear that the newest threats are to the south and the east and across the globe in the furtive wanderings of the terrorist cell. The practical, operational advantages of Romania and Bulgaria are clear on any map.

They want us there. In welcome contrast to recent sentiment in Germany, as well as in France which has refused for decades to have our troops on its soil, countries like Romania and Bulgaria have invited us in, and opinion surveys show that their hospitality reflects the will of their people.

They will be cost-effective. The newly free economies of Europe are embracing economic freedom with zeal, but operations are simply less expensive there. A garrison near Bucharest will cost less than a garrison near Bonn.

Now is the time to re-evaluate our basing choices in Europe. We should do this not to punish any ally who did not agree with us, nor even simply to reward our newest (and supportive) European allies, but to serve the strategic interests of the United States of America. The new democracies of Europe offer the opportunity, strategic advantage and shared values that will help us to win the next conflict, or deter it altogether.

Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on European Affairs.

*Title changed by the Editorial Staff of novinite.com

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