The United States supports having permanent US military bases on the eastern flank of NATO, but for regular short-term rotations of US troop units rather than long-term basing, the top Pentagon general said Tuesday.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley told a hearing in the House of Representatives that the key allies on the eastern edge of NATO are willing to host permanent US bases.
“I think actual presence is always a good deterrent relative to a given threat, as a general rule of thumb,” Milley said.
“My advice would be to create permanent bases, but don’t permanently station. So you get the effect of permanence by rotational forces cycling through permanent bases,” Milley said.
He said this would save on the costs of traditional US overseas bases, where troops are placed for two to three years, bringing their families — which requires more support facilities, like schools, health, and shopping venues.
Milley said US allies in Europe, particularly the three countries of the Baltics plus Poland and Romania, “are very, very willing to establish permanent bases.”
“They will build them, they will pay for them,” he told the House Armed Services Committee.
The United States has currently around 67,000 service members stationed in Europe, mainly in Germany, Britain, and Italy.
Most of them are residents on bases on tours of up to three years, with their families, and the bases are like mini-cities with extensive community support facilities, including supermarkets where they can shop for familiar American products.