Skip to comments.Keep bases here, Germany implores U.S.
Posted on 03/28/2004 5:36:02 AM PST by knighthawk
WUERZBURG, Germany - As host to 170,000 American soldiers and dependents, Germany has a lot to lose under Pentagon plans to shift forces out of western Europe, and officials in areas facing a pinch are lobbying heavily for them to stay.
Economic survival for their communities, more than security, is the concern for these supporters of a continued U.S. presence in their regions, where ties are deeply rooted despite Germans' current criticism of U.S. policy in Iraq.
Many of the communities depend on business and jobs generated by the bases, located mainly in economically weak regions of southern and western Germany.
''We realized that our installations are in grave danger,'' said Karl Peter Bruch, a state official in Rhineland-Palatinate who heads an effort to lobby U.S. officials. ``And then came the question, what can we do to make us more attractive?''
The tactic has drawn mixed reviews from the Americans, who have some 80,000 military personnel with 94,000 family members in Germany.
The issue has nothing to do with Germany being unattractive, U.S. officials say. It's part of a global realignment to meet changing threats centered in Central Asia and the Middle East.
''We're still sitting where we were at the end of the Cold War,'' said Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler, the U.S. European Command's point man on planning for force realignment.
But letting go is not easy for towns like Wuerzburg, where the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division has been stationed since after World War II. It is frequently mentioned as a candidate to return to the United States.
At a recent farewell ceremony for soldiers departing Wuerzburg for Iraq, Bavaria's governor stressed the Army's importance to his state.
'Dear soldiers, your presence in Bavaria . . . is indispensable to peace and stability in Europe and is a key element in our trans-Atlantic relations. The U.S. Army, `our' 1st Infantry Division, must remain in Bavaria,'' said Gov. Edmund Stoiber, a leading conservative who narrowly lost national elections in 2002 to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats.
Schroeder's relations with Washington were strained by his strong opposition to attacking Saddam Hussein's regime. But U.S. officials made it clear they're pulling forces out of Germany because of the changed international threat, not as punishment.
Nonetheless, German officials aren't giving up. Mayors from host cities across Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate traveled to Washington in the fall to argue the benefits of keeping bases in Germany: solid infrastructure, good quality of life and decades-old friendships.
Even though critical sites in Rhineland-Palatinate such as Ramstein Air Base and the Landstuhl medical center appear likely to stay, Bruch figures his state should do even more, since entire regions depend heavily on the $1.4 billion and 27,000 local jobs the U.S. military generates.
With German-U.S. working groups, Bruch toured all the American bases in the state to learn what they need and what would make them attractive to the restructured U.S. military.
A key issue was decrepit housing that didn't meet the latest U.S. security needs, so Bruch has raised about $130 million in private funds for renovation and construction of new housing for the Americans.
He also hired a Washington-based consultant and traveled to the U.S. capital to make his case. American officials reacted positively and invited him to return this spring with concrete plans for new military housing, Bruch said.
''There had been other delegations, including one from Bavaria that talked about how beautiful the mountains are,'' Bruch said. ``But we were the only Germans who went there and presented a concept.''
While in Washington, Bruch also learned more about the U.S. Army's introduction of small, highly mobile units called Stryker brigades. U.S. officials are looking to base them at strategic locations where they can train but also be ready to deploy quickly.
''That would be ideal for Baumholder,'' Bruch said, referring to a base with a large training area near Ramstein where parts of the 1st Infantry Division are now stationed. He plans to make that pitch in Washington.
Officials at European Command say they expect to have a solid picture of the future force structure in Germany by early spring.
Some cities are not waiting to find out if they are on the list of closings.
In Bamberg, which also hosts units of the 1st Infantry Division, city officials have set up a task force to grapple with issues like a flooded real estate market if the Army should vacate its 500 apartments.
If people want on or off this list, please let me know.
I know what she'd say...
Re: US Base Realignment
Have a nice day!
Rummy and the Bush Administration
Poland has mountains too.
Dear Bavarian Politician, your socialist government has poured Germany's considerable wealth into social welfare programs for decades so that you're unable to mount a modern military for your own defense. You want U.S. troops to stay on so you can continue your good-times, rock 'n roll welfare state society at America's expense.
Have another beer and a pretzel and go visit Mad King Ludwig's castle for your continuing comfort and inspiration.
I dunno if this is related, I think not... but it may be related to the EU putting tarrifs on US made goods manufactured in states critical to Bush in the election. The EU is trying to affect our election by increasing unemployment in critical states. I would guess this is more closely tied to the base closings than WOT behavior...if indeed they're tied at all...jmho
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