German mayors push to keep U.S. bases
Stars and Stripes June 13, 2003
WASHINGTON — Thirteen mayors of German cities came to Washington to plead their case: American troops are welcome, indeed necessary, in their communities.
But the mayors may not be flying home feeling all that good. The lord mayor of Kaiserslautern, Bernhard Deubig, told reporters that he asked members of Congress about a report in the Wall Street Journal that said some 75 percent of American forces in Germany could be withdrawn.
“We were talking about this 75 percent figure,” he said through his interpreter. “We did not get confirmation of this number, but it will be very high.”
Deubig spoke for the other 12 mayors at a news conference. He praised U.S. servicemembers and their families for being wonderful guests, and talked of the importance of the troops stationed there.
“We came to tell the people of Washington this,” Deubig said. “And we are in a position where we can guarantee a good future for troops there.”
Deubig stressed that the delegation, the first of local officials to visit Washington on such matters, was not there to discuss foreign policy, and that its members represented the people of their cities only.
But it was clear that differences between the U.S. and German governments over the Iraq campaign weighed heavily on everyone’s minds. Deubig said that the members of Congress with whom the delegation met told him that the only considerations on which basing would be decided are strategic.
“In all meetings we heard, ‘If there are points where countries don’t reach the same conclusions, this will have no bearing on decisions.’ [Whether] that was said out of politeness, I cannot say.”
The Germans met with several members of Congress, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and a team from the Pentagon, including Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Secretary of the Air Force James Roche and acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee.
The Department of Defense is considering a complete realignment of forces overseas and at home to develop a military that is lighter, faster and more lethal. Bases set up in the Cold War era to counter a massive ground invasion from the Soviet Union may not fare well in any cuts.
Countries such as Hungary, Poland and Romania are thought to be prime areas for the U.S. military to move in and set up posts without so much infrastructure.
Deubig said having basic services in place favors existing U.S. bases in Germany.
“I believe it is important that these factors are present in Germany, but need to be created in other countries. Heat, energy, fresh water need to be supplied. You cannot build that out of nothing.”
Deubig was asked if such spartan bases, without schools and families, would be acceptable to his community.
“The answer is clear. We find it necessary that the families are included. An example: Fifty-one percent of Americans in these communities are family members. Fourteen percent are business people, and 35 percent are soldiers. I find this ration very positive.
“A base with only soldiers? That is comparable to a base in the desert, and that is exactly what we do not want.”