The Defense Department slashed troop levels in Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the unification of Germany, pulling soldiers back to the U.S. and shutting down entire divisions that had kept the peace between adversaries for decades.
Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of the U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander, told lawmakers this week that the U.S. may once again need more troops permanently stationed in the theater even after the end of the current clash between Ukraine and Russia.
“There’s always a mix between the requirements of a permanent [force] vs. rotational. There are pluses and minuses of each one,” Gen. Walters said Tuesday during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “My suspicion is we’re going to still need more” permanent forces.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is willing to keep an open mind about the need for additional permanent American military bases in Europe, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
“You can bet that senior leaders here at the department are going to take a look at our European posture going forward,” Mr. Kirby said. “The security environment is different now. However, this war ends — we don’t know when and we don’t know what it’s going to look like — we’re working under the assumption that Europe is not going to be the same anymore.”
The U.S. will coordinate with European allies if it goes forward with deploying more troops there permanently, Pentagon officials said.
“Whatever decisions we make, they’re going to be in lockstep with allies and partners,” Mr. Kirby said.