U.S. and NATO Buildup in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia

By Col. Ann Wright

Col. Ann Wright giving this presentation at the Cuba Movement For Peace and the VIth Seminar on the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases held in Guantanamo, Cuba in May 2019.

The 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was held in Washington, DC April 3 and 4. Many organizations came to Washington to challenge the antagonistic approach to Russia that has made Europe another crisis area after more than 25 years of the Cold War having faded into history.

Over the last decade, the U.S. and NATO have been actively securing military bases in the Baltic, Scandinavian and Eastern European countries along the border of Russia.

In Estonia, there is a NATO battalion lead by the UK and composed of 800 troops from Denmark and France with 4 German Typhoon jets performing Baltic “Air Policing” missions.

In Latvia, there is a 1,200-person battalion led by Canada and composed of military personnel from Albania, Italy, Poland, Spain and Slovenia.

In Lithuania, a 1,200-person battalion is led by Germany with military personnel from Belgium, Croatia, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Norway with 4 Dutch F-16 jet performing Baltic “Air Policing” missions.

In Poland, there is a U.S. Aegis land-based missile system and a 4,000 U.S. lead battalion with heavy armor, including 250 tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Paladin howitzers.

In Romania, the U.S. has placed an Aegis land-based missile system, the first in Europe since the Cold War.

In the north of Europe in Scandinavia, NATO’s biggest military exercises since the end of the Cold War, named Trident Juncture 18, took place in Norway from October 25 to November 7, 2018 in what was a massive display of strength intended to intimidate Russia.

Around 50,000 troops from 31 countries — NATO’s 29-member states plus Sweden and Finland — took part in the maneuvers organized in central Norway for the land exercises, in the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea for the maritime operations, and in Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish airspace.

That is about 10,000 more soldiers than in the Strong Resolve exercises in Poland in 2002, which brought together Alliance members and 11 partner states.

10,000 vehicles took part in the military exercises and when lined up end-to-end, the convoy would be 92 kilometers or 57 miles long. 250 aircraft and 60 ships took part, including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

More than 20,000 land forces, as well as 24,000 navy personnel including US Marines, 3,500 air force personnel, around 1,000 logistics specialists and 1,300 personnel from a range of NATO Commands participated.

The top five contributing nations were the United States, Germany, Norway, Britain and Sweden, in that order.

In 2017, despite strong protests from Russia, 330 US Marines deployed on rotation to the Norwegian training base at Værnes in the center of Norway. The US wants to increase the number of US military to 700 and station them further north at Setermoen, 420 kilometers from Russia.The US deployment agreement would also be extended from the current six-month renewable periods to five years.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 is the rationale NATO used to increase US/NATO personnel in central and eastern Europe. The Russian government has repeatedly and strongly criticized the deployment of U.S. forces in Norway. Since Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, Poland has been an key element of the increased U.S. presence in Eastern Europe, including repeat deployments of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team to show the rapid mobilization U.S. and NATO forces could provide in the case of another incursion. In August the Air Force deployed five F-22 Raptors and 40 airmen to Poland to take part in joint exercises there.

The U.S. also announced last week that U.S. Army Europe was expanding its troop presence by adding 1,500 soldiers to its forces in Germany.

There are 33,000 U.S. troops in Germany and a total of 64,112 U.S. military in Europe.

The Polish defense ministry proposal lists the country’s regions of Bydgoszcz and Toruń as possible locations for the hypothetical U.S. armored division. Additionally, NATO’s Joint Force Training Center is already headquartered in Bydgoszcz.

US military presence in Europe reached its peak in the fifties with more than 450,000 troops operating on more than 1,200 sites. After the end of the Cold War the US military presence in Europe rapidly decreased to 213,000 servicemen, and later in 1993 it decreased even further to 112,000 servicemen. Today there are 33,000 American troops permanently stationed across Europe. Military infrastructure and the US military in Europe (EUCOM) can be classified in sections.

Image from Niall McCarthy from Statista.

Military Infrastructure:

Main operating bases are large installations able to accommodate
relatively large number of permanently stationed troops with well-
established infrastructure.
Forward-operating sites are primarily used by rotating forces. These
installations are capable for adaptation depending on the circumstances.
Cooperative security locations usually have no permanently stationed
troops and are maintained by contractor or host-nation support

EUCOM is responsible for military operations, partnering, general security enhancement as part of United States forward defensive posture. EUCOM has five components: US Naval Forces Europe (NAVEUR), US Army Europe (USAREUR), US Air Force in Europe (USAFE), US Marine Force Europe (MARFOREUR), US Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR).

US Naval Forces Europe (NAVEUR) provides overall command, control
and coordination for all US maritime assets currently deployed in Europe
US Army Europe (USAREUR) is located in Wiesbaden, Germany. At the
peak of the Cold War the US Army had almost 300,000 troops deployed in
Europe, today the core of USAREUR is formed by two brigade combat
teams and an aviation brigade located in Germany and Italy

US Air Force in Europe (USAFE) has eight main bases in Europe with
approximately 39,000 active, reserve and civilian personnel. USAFE
supports ongoing missions in Europe and was particularly active during
the crisis in Libya.
US Marine Force Europe (MARFOREUR) was formed in the eighties
with less than 200 marines, today the command is set in Böblingen,
Germany with approximately 1,500 marines assigned to support EUCOM
and NATO missions. MARFOREUR was active in the Balkans, and has
regular military exercises especially with the Norwegian forces.
US Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) provides peace
time planning and operation control of special operation forces during
unconventional warfare in EUCOMs area of responsibility. SOCEUR
participated in various capacity-building missions and evacuation
missions especially in Africa, it had an active role in the Balkans during
the nineties and supported combat operations during the Iraq and
Afghanistan wars.

Beside French and British nuclear capabilities the US has also maintained a significant number of nuclear warheads across Europe. During the Cold War era US had more than 2,500 nuclear warheads in Europe, however after the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union that number rapidly decreased. Today according to some unofficial estimates, the US has around 150 to 250 warheads deployed in Italy, Turkey, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium. It should be noted that most of these weapons are free fall gravity bombs delivered by aircraft.

Though most of the nuclear weapons are in Western Europe total disarmament and removal of these warheads is highly unlikely, considering the situation in Ukraine and in the Middle East. There are two types of bases currently used to hold nuclear weapons in Europe: Nuclear Air Bases and Air Bases with Nuclear vaults in caretaker status.

Nuclear Air Bases are Lakenheath (UK), Volkel (Netherlands), KleineBroggle (Belgium), Buchel (Germany), Ramstein (Germany), Ghadei Torre (Italy), Aviano (Italy) and Incirlik (Turkey).

Air Bases with Nuclear vaults in caretaker status are in Norvenich (Germany), Araxos (Greece), Balikesir (Turkey), Akinci (Turkey). Germany has the most U.S. nuclear weapons with the potential storage of more than 150 bombs. All these weapons can be moved and shifted to other bases or other countries if desired.

U.S. Bases located in the United Kingdom
o Menwith Hill Air Base
o Mildenhall Air Base
o Alcon Bury Air Base
o Croughton Air Base
o Fairford Air Base

U.S. Bases located in Germany
o USAG Hohenfels
o USAG Weisbaden
o USAG Hessen
o USAG Schweinfurt
o USAG Bamberg
o USAG Grafenwoehr
o USAG Ansbach
o USAG Darmstadt
o USAG Heidelberg
o USAG Stuttgart
o USAG Kaiserslautern
o USAG Baumholder
o Spangdahlem Air Base
o Ramstein Air Base
o Panzer Kaserne (U.S. Marine base)

U.S. Bases located in Belgium
o USAG Benelux
o USAG Brussels

U.S. Bases located in Netherlands
o USAG Schinnen
o Joint Force Command

U.S. Bases located in Italy
o Aviano Air Base
o Caserma Ederle
o Camp Darby
o NSA La Maddalena
o NSA Gaeta
o NSA Naples
o NSA Sigonella

Bases located in Serbia/Kosovo
o Camp Bondsteel

U.S. Bases located in Bulgaria
o Graf Ignatievo Air Base
o Bezmer Air Base
o Aitos Logistics Center
o Novo Selo Range

U.S. Bases located in Greece
o NSA Souda Bay

U.S. Bases located in Turkey
o Izmir Air Base
o Incirlik Air Base


Tragically, the Russian annexation of Crimea has given war-hawks in both the U.S. and NATO the rationale they feel they need to dramatically increase the number and strength of aggressive military exercises in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries.

Additionally, the confrontation of U.S. and Russian military and foreign policies in Syria and in Venezuela have been the justification of an increase in the U.S. military budget, while the Russian government has a budget of only one-tenth of the U.S. budget and is very small when compared to the combined military budgets of all 29-NATO countries.

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