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Author Topic: Not a controvery, but a milestone - The last American Armor leaves Europe  (Read 1276 times)

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Offline HealergirlTopic starter

http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htarm/articles/20130410.aspx

 
April 10, 2013: For the first time in 69 years, there are no American tanks in Europe. On March 18th the United States shipped home 22 M-1 tanks, bringing to an end seven decades of American armor in Europe.

First appearing in combat during World War I (1914-18) the tank became a decisive weapon during World War II (1939-45) and continued to dominate battlefields to the present. The first American tank to see wide service in Europe was the 29 ton M-4 with its 75mm gun. By the end of World War II the 42 ton M-26 and its 90mm gun showed up. By the 1950s there was the 44 ton M-47, also armed with a 90mm gun. By the end of the 1950s the 46 ton M-60 and its 105mm gun showed up. While the M-60 underwent several upgrades, it was not replaced by the 60 ton M-1 and its 120mm gun until 20 years later. During that 20 years NATO tank strength reached its peak, with about 6,000 in service with the U.S. and other NATO units in Europe. Most of those are now gone, either withdrawn (as with British, Canadian and American ones) or disposed of (sold or scrapped). Less than 2,000 remain, none of them American.

American military forces in Europe have been shrinking ever since the end of World War II. By the end of the decade there will only be 30,000 American troops left in Europe. Thatís a tenth of what it was when the Cold War ended between 1989 (when most communist governments in East Europe collapsed) and 1991 (when the Soviet Union dissolved). The last 22 M-1s were part of two American mechanized combat brigades that were being disbanded.

American troops wonít completely disappear and most Europeans want it that way. The American troops are hostages, to help keep the peace in a part of the world that has brought us some of the most destructive wars in history. While the Russians complain that the continued presence of U.S. forces in Europe is a threat to Russia, most Europeans have a more justifiable fear of Russian aggression. The Europeans pick up most of the cost of keeping the American troops there and itís not a bad place to be stationed for a few years, despite the fact that Russia still has more tanks in service than all the rest of Europe.

All this began after 1952 (when the occupation of Germany ended). In 1945 there were three million American troops in Europe, equipped with over 5,000 tanks. In the next few years that troops and tank strength was reduced by over 90 percent. The Cold War began in 1948, but the forces in Europe did not grow much until the 1950s.

During the Cold War American troops in Europe grew to include 300,000 troops, two corps and over six divisions (18 combat brigades), plus thousands of warplanes and helicopters, hundreds of ships and over 1,500 tanks. Now there are no more tanks, and mostly support troops. There is some infantry and paratroopers, but not much in the way of armored vehicles.

Online Neysha

Huh it certainly is.

Interesting find. Thanks for sharing.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Moar.

American troops wonít completely disappear and most Europeans want it that way. The American troops are hostages, to help keep the peace in a part of the world that has brought us some of the most destructive wars in history. While the Russians complain that the continued presence of U.S. forces in Europe is a threat to Russia, most Europeans have a more justifiable fear of Russian aggression.

This part of the article is a bit dubious, maybe. Most Germans want some American troops there -- probably most Eastern Europeans too -- but that's not quite the same thing as "most Europeans" wanting them around or having a "justifiable fear of Russian aggression." Aside from the fact that the only "Russian aggression" Germany ever suffered happened after Germany invaded Russia, the days of the mighty Red Army waiting to pour through the Fulda Gap and smite everything in its path are long gone. Today's Russia took over a decade to pacify Chechnya, a country just over half the size of Belgium.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Moar.

This part of the article is a bit dubious, maybe. Most Germans want some American troops there -- probably most Eastern Europeans too -- but that's not quite the same thing as "most Europeans" wanting them around or having a "justifiable fear of Russian aggression." Aside from the fact that the only "Russian aggression" Germany ever suffered happened after Germany invaded Russia, the days of the mighty Red Army waiting to pour through the Fulda Gap and smite everything in its path are long gone. Today's Russia took over a decade to pacify Chechnya, a country just over half the size of Belgium.

Most of the reason they are upset about the armor is leaving is simply dollars and cents. Think about it. They lost THOUSANDS of money spending servicemen. Folks who buy stuff, live in housing, pay rent, utilities and other things. That is going to be a HUGE hit on the local economy. When my squadron in Spain notified the kingdom of their relocation from Rota to Washington state, the city damn near panicked t the loss of 300 or so servicemen and something around 600 or so dependents. Can you imagine what losing a single brigade, all THEIR support staff and the dependents for them would be like?

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Most of the reason they are upset about the armor is leaving is simply dollars and cents.

Indeed. :) Cf. the community referenced in my "Moar" link.

Offline HealergirlTopic starter

Callie,

It was a huge hit.  I am an army brat, lived in Germany for six years... the amount of money my family  spent "on the economy" as was the common term for spending outside the PX/Commissary system, was quite large, even not counting the money we spent while traveling.  And my family traveled quite a lot.  Just going to Europe was a huge gift the Army gave to dependant familes, my family took advantage of it.

Add in the official spending, the rental rights for the bases, the  geenrous damages the US Army paid to German farmers for tearing up cropland during maneuvers, the right-of way payments to small towns during maneuvers - the sight of a HUGE M60 tank carefully threading through the narrow streets of a farming village is one of the cherished memories of my childhood.  And yes, it tore the hell out of the cobblestone streets.  And the US Army paid for it, in full and more.

My God, the Jobs, German workers employed on the bases, contractors hired for work on the bases.  Every single bus driver I had while  military dependant school over there was German, for example.  And the schools... local bakeries always had trucks full of assorted goodies present when kids were arriving/leaving.  I'm sure they miss the money.

Yes, many were and are glad to see us go.  But.... I've been told that one of the local terms for Russians in Vietnam is "Americans without money."

Offline Callie Del Noire

Healergirl,

Ask them in 10 years. Outlooks might vary. I was initially a west coast Navy guy. I worked with a LOT of Filipinos and talked to them while I worked with them. The folks back home were REALLY happy to see us leave at first. Then the folks who coordinated the campaign to get us to leave profited and not many folks outside of them. One chief was particularly unhappy at how his family's business suffered when the Navy left. Lots of houses were suddenly empty.

I've seen it here in the US.. the BRAC revenge that President Bush unleashed in the middle his first term hurt a LOT of cities. I saw the impact that the departure of Navy personel out of Brunswick as I was one of the last to leave. It is a devastating process.

Offline HealergirlTopic starter

Don't get me started on BRAC.  Everytime that committee meets, myriad angels lose their wings.  And yes, as the military shrank, base closing had to happen.  But the social impacts were and are huge.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Don't get me started on BRAC.  Everytime that committee meets, myriad angels lose their wings.  And yes, as the military shrank, base closing had to happen.  But the social impacts were and are huge.


Agreed, I got the bad smell when they said New London should be shut down and the Atlantic sub force relocated to Kings Bay.  For those that don't know that would have cost us BILLIONS in development to get to where the subs could all park there. Not to cover the other facilities that would have impacted. Strange how all the bases in the last cycle were 5:1 blue to red.

Offline HealergirlTopic starter

There is a sound political reason for that:  Blue state congressmen and senators don't get as much full throated support from their fellow congressmen even  in other districts of their states when it comes to saving bases in their state as red state congressmen do.   The Military is considered by many as a Republican thing, I suspect Democrats just don't want to be seen as supporting the military by fighting to keep bases in blue states open.

This has weird strategic effects.  A couple of years ago, thee was a move to rebase several minesweepers from the west coast to Texas. - much furtheraway from the Persian Gulf and Asian shipping lanes here they were far more likely to be needed. I mean, seriously?  Gamesmanship, bringing home the pork at the purest level.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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The Military is considered by many as a Republican thing, I suspect Democrats just don't want to be seen as supporting the military by fighting to keep bases in blue states open.

Given the number of hawkish Democrats from military backgrounds I've had the opportunity to observe and interact with over the past couple of decades, I find this very hard to believe. There may be parts of the Democratic coalition that feel this way, but the Dems have always seemed to largely ignore them. (Not that I necessarily think this is a good thing.)

Offline HealergirlTopic starter

Cyrano,

There is truth in what you say, but the most recent round of BRAC mandated closings hit Blue states far out of proportion to Red states, and the demographics of military recruitment, well, the Bible/Gun belt is way overrepresented as a percentage of population.  If you have contrary statistics, I will be fascinated - and overjoyed - to see them.   The sort of Democrats you refer to were once identified as Scoop Jackson Democrats, lately referred to as Blue Dog Democrats - and there are fewer of them than there used to er, and Moderate Republicans are notable mainly by absence - there are exceptions such as Olympia Snowe, for example.

And the Democrats attitude as a party to the Military, Heh.  A british comedian whose name I can not remember from long ago said once that the Republicans were a the equivalent of England's Conservative party.  Then you had the Democrats, who were the equivalent of Benland's Conservative party.

But talking the talk and walking the walk are very different things, in terms of congressmen/senators who are actual combat veterans, the Democrats do seem to have more members than Republicans who have served, in the latest crops anyway.


edited to correct my manglinig of the term Blue Dog Democrats
« Last Edit: April 29, 2013, 06:31:45 AM by Healergirl »

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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and the demographics of military recruitment, well, the Bible/Gun belt is way overrepresented as a percentage of population.  If you have contrary statistics, I will be fascinated - and overjoyed - to see them.

Well that's an interesting question. I'm not totally sure where to find such statistics -- a quick search didn't turn them up -- but now I wonder if the DOD's constant attempts to portray the above as a fallacious stereotype are just spin. I'll have to look some more.

Offline HealergirlTopic starter

Cyrano,

I'm having trouble finding recent numbers as well.

One other thing regarding Democratic Party support of the Military:  Due to the gerrymandering nature of redistricting as it is practiced in the USA, the elected officials at the national and state level of each party are more extreme than the  party membership by a long way.  This does not bode well for long term stability or even medium term stability, the current fracas of redistritcing is a sign of that.  The "men in the street" membershipo f both parties is asking why a deal can't be made, the rank and file of both partiesare not that far apart fro each other... but the leadership of both parties very much are divided to an insuperable degree.

Offline Wajin

I for one, having lived in Europe all my life, and having seen American Tanks drive up to perform drills here in Denmark with our armoured divisions... it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I was with my father who said that "The world owes the soldiers of America so much, for decades they have lost their lives to protect all of us"

I'm personally sad to see them leave

*Salutes*

Offline Callie Del Noire

I for one, having lived in Europe all my life, and having seen American Tanks drive up to perform drills here in Denmark with our armoured divisions... it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I was with my father who said that "The world owes the soldiers of America so much, for decades they have lost their lives to protect all of us"

I'm personally sad to see them leave

*Salutes*

I appreciate that attitude. It was all I encountered while I served in Spain.

I had heard of the opposite attitude from some of my coworkers.. like the guys who were in a bar in Portugal on 9/11 who beat six types of hell out of the Portuguese pilots who cheered at the towers going down.

Most of the time.. folks are sad to see us leave. I find it sad, and a bit ironic, that our efforts are more appreciated overseas than here at home sometimes. Before 9/11 military discounts were going away and the attitude I got when I was in San Diego was we were a 'waste of space'. That changed radically after 9/11 but I'm seeing some of that 'what have you done for me today' attitude in some folks. Not many.

 

Online Neysha

This part of the article is a bit dubious, maybe. Most Germans want some American troops there -- probably most Eastern Europeans too -- but that's not quite the same thing as "most Europeans" wanting them around or having a "justifiable fear of Russian aggression." Aside from the fact that the only "Russian aggression" Germany ever suffered happened after Germany invaded Russia, the days of the mighty Red Army waiting to pour through the Fulda Gap and smite everything in its path are long gone. Today's Russia took over a decade to pacify Chechnya, a country just over half the size of Belgium.

And it took them five days to pacify Georgia, an independent country four times larger then Chechnya.

I'm guessing that is due to the fact there might be considerable differences between conducting the kind of lower intensity suppression campaign they were engaging in off and on in Chechnya in two separate wars, and flooding across the North German Plain with dozens of divisions and the skies filled with airplanes and ballistic missiles overhead.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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The Georgian War was quick because the opportunistic Saakashvili regime that started it belatedly discovered that nobody outside the regime, including its own army, had any real stomach for it. The Georgian Army and Navy were hilariously ill-organized, ill-coordinated and outclassed, and folded largely without a fight. They weren't a motivated enemy the way the Chechens were.

The expert consensus, FWIW, is that the Russian military isn't equipped to flood anywhere with dozens of divisions and the skies filled with airplanes. If you look at analyses of its performance in Georgia, it only succeeded by being less ramshackle than the enemy, not by being objectively impressive in any way. The consensus among most military analysts that I know of is that the Russian army of the post-Soviet era is an ill-funded and overstretched shell of its former self; the state is no longer able to divert the crushing amounts of resources to it that the Red Army enjoyed -- because that turned out to be economic suicide -- but it has yet to fully adjust to being not-the-Red-Army.

Offline Callie Del Noire

The Question is: Is there anyone who can match the current red army in scale? With the withdrawal of US Armor and other forces there is a much smaller level of forces in Europe than ever before. And accessibility between countries is greatly easier.

Not to sound paranoid, but in many ways the Former USSR is still the biggest boy on the block and a lot knowledge on being conquistador is still available in the region. Not saying that TODAY they could do it.. but 10 years down the line with a regime change? Who knows. Hitler didn't make over the shattered economy of Post WW1 Germany overnight.. but he built on what was left after. A lot of strategic planning and oppourtunities came out of WW1 and the crash of the Soviet Union doesn't mean it can't rebuild into some new form.

Personally I don't see the Former SRs being a problem so much as I see them being the next victims. I see a lot more plutocracy/robber baronies than I see conquistadors. I would worry more about the Chinese doing a resource grab on the outlying edges as they become more and more ascendent. Who will back up the Russians and their client states? No one. We're turtling in, the European Union is at least as financially tied to China and China is taking no time at all in making nice with South America and Africa.

A half century hence.. China will be the 'Great Satan' and we'll happy to stay home.

I'm meandering a bit but it comes down to this. This is a change we'll only see, pro or con, for whatever historical impact it has. It had to be made..and only history will be able to make the call on whether it should or shouldn't have been done.

Online Neysha

The Georgian War was quick because the opportunistic Saakashvili regime that started it belatedly discovered that nobody outside the regime, including its own army, had any real stomach for it. The Georgian Army and Navy were hilariously ill-organized, ill-coordinated and outclassed, and folded largely without a fight. They weren't a motivated enemy the way the Chechens were.

The expert consensus, FWIW, is that the Russian military isn't equipped to flood anywhere with dozens of divisions and the skies filled with airplanes. If you look at analyses of its performance in Georgia, it only succeeded by being less ramshackle than the enemy, not by being objectively impressive in any way. The consensus among most military analysts that I know of is that the Russian army of the post-Soviet era is an ill-funded and overstretched shell of its former self; the state is no longer able to divert the crushing amounts of resources to it that the Red Army enjoyed -- because that turned out to be economic suicide -- but it has yet to fully adjust to being not-the-Red-Army.

That's all well and good, but the main difference is that it's a conventional war. And Chechnya wasn't. As much as saying it took a decade to suppress the Chechens sounds nice, it was basically a drunkard in office throwing his rotted army at the problem for a couple years, then they made peace, took a breather, then someone who wasn't a moron became President and basically crushed conventional Chechen resistance which was even more formidable then before in less then a year. Sure there was an insurgency phase, but it's not like there wouldn't be a bloody insurgency if Russia did crush Georgia completely and tried to puppetize or, more comparably, annex it.

Either way, I still don't see how the comparison of an off/on insurgency conflict whose major conventional action has ended over a decade ago with a steadily but still deadly ongoing insurgency is somehow comparable to either the Soviet hordes streaming across the North German Plain a decade prior, or the performance of the Russian military in 2008 or in lieu of 2008. Russia, even now, still has the most formidable military in Europe and probably still only second to the United States. While I agree that any threat of Russia invading Western Europe is extremely unlikely, and even implausible in the near future for many reasons not related to the military, making any statements as to the quality of the Russian military in reference to Chechnya is just improper and largely fading into irrelevance.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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It doesn't matter whether the war is conventional or not: having to retire from the field because your army runs out of money is a pretty solid indicator of the real extent of one's military power. Putin's army may well be economically healthier and better-led than Yeltsin's was, but despite its post-nineties recovery it is by all indications still a lot closer to the lower benchmark than it is to the Red Army in its heyday. (The most optimistic assessments still talk about its being "poised to become a top modern world power again.") So the Chechen Wars are in fact not irrelevant, any more than knocking over an opponent like Saakashvili's Georgia in a "conventional" war is at all impressive. Though I'll grant you that it would be unfair to portray the whole post-Soviet era as all of a piece.

Basically, the point is that the spectre of Russian aggression is vastly overrated and, for all that Russia's military is the world's second-most-powerful, its supposed mismatch with Europe is also vastly overrated. Four of the world's top ten militaries are in Western Europe: the UK, France, Germany, and Italy. The notion that Russia could somehow just walk over the rest of Europe was understandable in the days when the Red Army was the world's strongest conventional force. It is just a flat-out non-starter now.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2013, 04:23:41 AM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline Callie Del Noire

Depends.  Today they might not but don't write them off. I think will and focus as well as commitments can impact that. A brutal willingness to do anything can even quite a bit, the Russians might bite off more than hey can chew but if they time it right or play it within their section of Europe I doubt any of those groups will push things. Particularly given the dependence on Russian petroleum I the future depending on how things go in the Middle East.

There are still a lot of angles beyond simple military might. If you go with simple numbers, Henry the fifth shouldn't have won the battle of Agincourt in 1415. 

Online Neysha

It doesn't matter whether the war is conventional or not: having to retire from the field because your army runs out of money is a pretty solid indicator of the real extent of one's military power. Putin's army may well be economically healthier and better-led than Yeltsin's was, but despite its post-nineties recovery it is by all indications still a lot closer to the lower benchmark than it is to the Red Army in its heyday. (The most optimistic assessments still talk about its being "poised to become a top modern world power again.") So the Chechen Wars are in fact not irrelevant, any more than knocking over an opponent like Saakashvili's Georgia in a "conventional" war is at all impressive. Though I'll grant you that it would be unfair to portray the whole post-Soviet era as all of a piece.

Basically, the point is that the spectre of Russian aggression is vastly overrated and, for all that Russia's military is the world's second-most-powerful, its supposed mismatch with Europe is also vastly overrated. Four of the world's top ten militaries are in Western Europe: the UK, France, Germany, and Italy. The notion that Russia could somehow just walk over the rest of Europe was understandable in the days when the Red Army was the world's strongest conventional force. It is just a flat-out non-starter now.

I'm sure what occurred in 1996 is extremely indicative of what Russian military power is... in 1996. But Russia has had two other campaigns there, one in Chechnya and one in Georgia, and in both cases, the conventional conflict (which is exactly the issue here if we're talking about any threat to Western Europe) was wrapped up quite quickly. the First Chechen War has rapidly fallen away into complete and utter irrelevance as one can apparently see from the prosecution of the later campaigns. They crushed Chechnya conventionally in less then a year, and Georgia in less then a week several years later and in the latter case, didn't even have to shift significant amounts of forces for the stereotyped deployment of overwhelming military force. It was largely done with regionally located forces. And I'm not even sure why we're putting "conventional" in quotations here. It was a conventional war and I contrast it sharply with the insurgencies of Chechnya. I believe there's an important difference in contrasting counter-insurgency campaigns with conventional (or "conventional") engagements.

And there isn't an overestimation of the Russian threat to be critical of. The original link merely stated "most Europeans have a more justifiable fear of Russian aggression." Not that Russia is going to charge through the Fulda Gap or North German Plain with a hundred divisions. Now there maybe disagreement with the statement of "most Europeans" but no one here or in the article stated that a "walkover of Europe" was going to happen. And while this article pertains to military forces, aggression can be perceived as something other then a full scale invasion of Western Europe... such as... invading some small Caucasus Republic, or pressuring prospective NATO members from joining NATO, or displays of military might via military exercises, or assassinating people abroad with polonium and dioxin or applying political pressure due to the threat of missile defense systems in Eastern Europe, or through trade and energy agreements/disagreements. The presence or lack thereof of the American military in Europe is merely one component of the entire perception of Russian "aggression" or lack thereof in Europe and it can be a range of "aggressive" acts both minor and scaling upwards into the ridiculously implausible like you've been discussing.

Offline HealergirlTopic starter

Ona more Grand Strategic level, I wonder what this implies for the NATo alliance.  For the life of me, I can't remember the source, but a senior European government official reportedly said "The purpose of  NATO is to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down."

Google attributes that to Lord Hastings Ismay - I thought it might have been a frenchman, and I garbled the quote slightly.

Online Neysha

I was promised no controversy when I entered the thread. :p

Ona more Grand Strategic level, I wonder what this implies for the NATo alliance.  For the life of me, I can't remember the source, but a senior European government official reportedly said "The purpose of  NATO is to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down."

Google attributes that to Lord Hastings Ismay - I thought it might have been a frenchman, and I garbled the quote slightly.

Lets attribute the first bit to America, the second to the Germans and the third to the French. Makes more sense that way. ;)

Anyways now NATO has proven more useful for peacekeeping and coordination of security and policy against all threats in that area, well beyond just Russia in the wake of the Cold War.