President Bush will announce Monday that he plans to pull 70,000 to 100,000 troops out of Europe and Asia in the first major reconfiguration of overseas military deployments by the United States since the Cold War ended, White House officials said yesterday.
Bush, who will reveal his plan in a speech to the annual convention of the 2.6 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars in Cincinnati, plans to say that the change is necessary to adapt the nation's military to the demands of the global war on terrorism and to take advantage of new technologies, said a senior aide involved in developing the plan.
Two-thirds of the reduction will come from Europe, most of them Army soldiers in Germany, and most of the troops will be reassigned to bases in the United States, the aide said. Officials said exact details of the moves have not been finalized, but some of the troops from Germany and South Korea will be moved to expansion countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Eastern Europe.
The plan is the latest iteration of a discussion that has been going on for several years between the Pentagon and the White House about reconfiguring troops abroad now that the Soviet Union is extinct and the United States is the world's lone superpower. Administration officials have talked for more than two years about their intention to move 60,000 troops out of Europe, mostly from Germany, and 30,000 from East Asia, mostly from Japan and South Korea.
"We are reshaping our military to meet the threats of the 21st century in a way that is considerate to the military and friendly to military families," the aide said.
Bush's aides said he will use his speech at the Republican National Convention in New York next month to cast himself as the only candidate who can keep the nation safe and who understands the stakes in the war on terror. Officials said his Monday speech is designed to broaden his vision of national security beyond the war on terror, and he will frame the realignment of the military as an effort by the United Statesto keep its new commitments around the world.
The latest version of the plan was first reported yesterday on the Web site of the Financial Times of London.
The official would not say how long the redeployment would take but said it would involve lengthy negotiations with the countries where the troops are stationed. The administration has been discussing the plans for months with several of the governments, including South Korea, and details went out to some embassies in cables late yesterday, administration officials said.
The new plan flows from the notion that U.S. Army bases in Germany no longer serve a genuine military purpose. While the U.S. government believes it is important to retain at least one major air base in Germany -- primarily as a way station for U.S. troops en route to Europe and the Middle East -- the belief is that moving ground troops further east is a natural consequence of the post-Cold War expansion of NATO.
Eastern European nations -- most notably Poland and Bulgaria -- have been far more enthusiastic supporters of U.S. policy in Iraq than have been older NATO allies and Belgium. Also, U.S. commanders long had chafed at environmental rules that have severely restricted training and maneuvers on German soil.
In East Asia, U.S. commanders recently have taken moves to reshape the U.S. military presence in South Korea, both moving troops from downtown Seoul and also redeploying troops southward from posts along the Demilitarized Zone to bases in the middle of South Korea.
The VFW's 105th annual convention has drawn more than 15,000 members to Ohio, a crucial swing state for Bush where Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) has shown strength because of lost manufacturing jobs.