Daily US Times: When the US and Polish officials signed a deal to support more troops in Poland, Jacek Czaputowicz, the country’s foreign minister, said the move put American troops where they needed to be.
Czaputowicz said in a joint appearance in last Saturday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “The presence of American troops in Poland enhances our deterrence potential because we are closer to the potential source of conflict.”
He said: “It is important that they should be deployed in Poland, and not in Germany.”
“The art of war assures us that the capability of deterrence is higher if the army is deployed in the right place,” he added.
The decision is part of a Trump administration plan to pull some 12,000 US troops from Germany which was announced last month. While 1,000 of those will join 4,500 US troops already in Poland, others will move to Italy and Belgium or back to the US, available to be sent back to Europe or other world hotspots should the need arise.
For decades, US personnel stationed in Germany have been considered on both sides of the Atlantic as the foundation of the post-World War II order. At the height of the Cold War, the United States maintained up to 400,000 troops in Europe, the majority in Germany.
As was the case in decades past, the potential source of conflict remains Russia — and the threat of possible incursion, as alluded to by Czaputowicz.
But elected officials in the US and among its NATO allies said the move to reposition troops could actually benefit Russia.
Mitt Romney, Republican US Senator, last month called the plan “a grave error” and “a gift to Russia.”
Norbert Roettgen, the head of the German Parliament’s foreign relations committee, tweeted: “Instead of strengthening #NATO it is going to weaken the alliance. The US’s military clout will not increase, but decrease in relation to Russia and the Near & Middle East.”
How could that “military clout” decrease? Deterrence is one example.
The last large US reduction of its troop presence in Germany took place in 2012. Russian troops moved into the Crimea and Moscow annexed the Ukrainian territory two years later, spiking tensions with NATO.
European and US military experts said the new decision would provide few benefits on any potential future battlefield, and certainly not enough to justify its enormous cost, estimated to be in the billions of dollars.
Specifically, the Trump administration plan pulls 11,900 US troops from Germany, redeploying 5,400 of them elsewhere in Europe and sending the remaining ones back to the US with some of them rotating back to Europe at some point.
Key movements include command and control centers going from Germany to Belgium as well as Air Force F-16 fighters and Army airborne troops moving from Germany to Italy.
Where is the right place for US troops?
Nick Reynolds, a land warfare research analyst at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, said there are not much benefit from the US plans.
He said: “Moving ground troops to Belgium and Italy puts them farther away from areas in which they are likely to be needed.”
“Even if they went to northern Italy, and a crisis happened to occur in southeastern Europe, transport links would make moving them slightly more time consuming,” he added.
Iulia-Sabina Joja, a post-doctoral fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies said in a paper written earlier this year, before the troop movements were announced, that three scenarios that involve conflict around the Black Sea, including new flareups with Ukraine near the Crimea.
Getting big amount of ground troops to those places from Italy means getting them through the mountains of the Alps, which would not be in the way of a move from Germany.
Reynolds said even though Poland is closer to Russia, the potential Black Sea hotspots and another possible flashpoint along the border with NATO’s Baltic nations, boosting troops in that country isn’t necessarily the answer.
Director of defense and military analysis at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, Bastian Giegerich, questioned the effectiveness of rotating troops back into Europe from the United States.
You may read: Biden vows to end Trump’s ‘season of darkness’