Almost half a century after its troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, the U.S. Army's 7th Corps is pulling out of Europe.
The 73,000-strong force, whose armor also helped crush Iraq's Republican Guard during last year's gulf war, will lower its colors for the last time in Stuttgart Wednesday.The ceremony will mark a milestone in the U.S. withdrawals from Europe now that the Cold War is over. But U.S. military officials are raising warning flags about further cuts advocated in Congress.
"We are not faced with a large, massive Soviet threat so it is appropriate for the U.S. forces to make some changes," Adm. David E. Jeremiah, Vice Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Bonn Monday.
"But I would hope that no one here feels that this reflects a lessening of U.S. interest in Europe and in our interest in continuing the work with our European allies in a still very uncertain and unstable world," he said.
He mentioned the gulf war and Yugoslavia's civil war as examples of the post-Cold War challenges facing the allies.
The U.S. would still have around 150,000 troops in Europe by 1995, less than half the number stationed here before the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the ensuing revolutions that ended with the breakup of the Soviet Union, he said.
But Washington, saddled with huge economic problems and facing growing isolationism, is confronted with calls for much deeper cuts in European troop levels than now planned.
"There are those who are looking, for (U.S.) domestic reasons, for changes in those numbers and would argue that other numbers could be right, like 80,000," said Jeremiah.
"With all due respect for my Congress, at the moment I would not take them precisely at face value in March of an election year," the admiral remarked.
The Pentagon needed to keep a corps, two divisions and associated tactical fighter wings to continue to be a capable NATO partner in Europe, he said.
"That number translates then to about 150,000 and we think that is the right number to shoot for in terms of capability."
Jeremiah was in Bonn for talks with German military leaders after being briefed on the American withdrawal process at the U.S. European Command headquarters in Stuttgart Sunday.
The ceremony Wednesday will be led by Gen. John Galvin, NATO supreme allied commander in Europe, who has called for the American presence in Europe not to drop below 150,000 troops. Galvin once commanded the 7th Corps.