There has been much speculation over recent years about what ‘American withdrawal’ from the world would mean. From North Africa to the Far East there have been warning signs. But perhaps only now is it becoming clear what a withdrawal of US power in the world will really result in. And how unsurprising it is that this would be noticed in Europe first.
Because in the last couple of days, as the US has begun to send extra aircraft in to NATO allied states to reassure them of continued American help, the question of US withdrawal from Europe is once again in people’s sight.
In March last year the last US tanks left Europe. In the period since the start of Obama’s Presidency 10,000 personnel, comprising two entire tank divisions, came out of Europe. This year was the first for 69 years in which there were no American tanks in Europe.
‘Good’ say some of those who are opposed to the projection of American power in the world. But there are consequences to such actions and a hubris that comes with believing a protector is an enemy or confusing a force of liberation with one of domination. Yet Europe’s reaction to American troops had always been mixed. And now that that force has been scaled down significantly we are being reminded that there are few actions that do not have a reaction.
Vladimir Putin did not violate Ukrainian sovereignty because of the removal of American tanks but he did do so because he could – rightly – foresee few if any challengers to his ambition. Perhaps there will remain no challenge to it. But if there is to be a challenge, indeed if there is to be any restraint on Putin’s ambition the only country able to issue such restraint would be the US.
We have heard many watchwords over the Obama Presidency. We have had the ‘reset’ with Russia. And of course we have had the ‘pivot’ to Asia. All noble policies, no doubt, but also policies which have been revealed to be misguided even where well meant. A pivot to Eastern Europe is what is now needed. And if anybody there is left wondering what the effects would be of greater American presence, they should be persuaded to think again first of what wholesale US withdrawal from their corner of the world would most likely precipitate.
EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command from Grafenwoehr, Germany. his file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Use of this image done not in any way infer endorsement of this column.