This article comes from a regular reader here,Mr. K.L., and it's a little gem of confirmation of one of my "high octane speculations" from last year, though I didn't expect to see such early confirmation of it. The United States Air Force is shutting down three of its airbases in the United Kingdom. You might be inclined to say, "so what? This isn't big news..." Or is it? Here's the story from the BBC, along with a subtle indicator of what it might all be about:
Now, this story we blogged about last year. Ostensibly, the United States began to shut down smaller bases in western Europe in an effort to "save money":
"US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Americans will leave RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk and RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire."
"The move is part of a programme to save £320m ($500m) a year across Europe. The USAF lease the RAF bases."
Now, for those of you who remember then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's appearance at a press conference one day before 9/11, complaining that the Pentagon couldn't find a mere $2,000,000,000,000 and that this was all a dangerous sign of Pentagon waste and mismanagement, closing three bases to save a mere $500,000,000 is pocket change. Last year, I blogged about a similar story as the US military was shutting down a few smaller bases in the Netherlands and Germany, again to save amounts of money that are mere pocket change. That's the cover story.
So what might really be going on?
Well, here comes my high octane speculation, courtesy of a few subtle statements in the BBC article(and the BBC is, as we know, if not anything else, always subtle):
"The USAF KC-135 tanker fleet based at Mildenhall will be moved to Germany.
"RAF Lakenheath, with two squadrons of new F-35 jets (48 of them) arriving by 2020, will be the aircraft's only European base.
"The Pentagon said the loss of about 2,000 US military and civilian personnel is due to relocation away from Mildenhall, but will be offset by the addition of about 1,200 people stationed permanently at Lakenheath."
What caught my eye here was the mention of the shifting eastwards of the USAF's mid-air refueling tankers to Germany. This to my mind confirms a pattern that I thought might emerge in coming years, though I certainly didn't suspect that it would come so quickly, namely, that the US military would close many bases in western Europe, in the name of "cost cutting", and shift bases to eastern Europe, in response to Eastern European calls for protection in the face of the "threat" posed by Mr. Putin's "aggressive" Russia. The strategy here seems simple enough, if risky. By pulling out of western Europe, and transferring functions and bases eastward, the US can play to those always-present European sentiments and popular opinion that resents the US military presence, and the quiet but nonetheless quite real vassal status that it creates. By basing eastward in Eastern Europe, the US appears to be taking up the mantle of the France of the interwar period, guaranteeing a cordon sanitaire between western Europe and Russia. By doing so, it places military assets in areas that can quickly deploy, if necessary, even further eastward in support of military operations, and that can also interdict any trade, or energy, flows between western Europe and Russia. In other words, it is an even more effective method of keeping western Europe firmly under the American thumb while forward basing to "deal" with Russia. But it is, obviously a risky strategy as well, for it places American military bases and assets between the sizable European militaries, and Russia.
And the key, here as always in European geopolitics, is Germany. It is, to my mind anyway, clear that the US means to continue a military presence in Germany if for no other reason than to secure that nation's continuing "compliance" to Washington's wishes, and hence the continuation of military bases there. Without Germany, that old Versailles-era of a cordon sanitaire is unworkable and untenable. The real game here, in other words, has nothing whatsoever to do with cost cutting, and everything to do with geopolitics, and it's also a sign, for those willing to read the tea leaves a bit, that the US is increasingly worried about the direction western Europe might take.
As if to underscore this analysis, consider the following statements of the German Vice-Chancellor and Economy and Energy Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, that you probably didn't see on SeeBS, Faux News, the BBC, CBC, or whatever local propaganda organ you may be subject to:
Watch this one, for it's a subtle story, and one that, I suspect, now that the process is under way in a major way, that we'll be seeing more of this year.
See you on the flip side...
(My thanks to Mr. E.O. for finding and sharing the RT article about the German Vice-Chancellor.)