On Monday, President Bush announced his intention to carry out a major repositioning of American forces over the next 10 years. The plan most affects Germany, which would lose 25,000-27,000 troops, and South Korea, which would lose one-third of its 37,000 U.S. troops. When completed, the plan would bring 70,000 troops and 100,000 attached civilians back to the United States. The White House claims that this move is part of the military's continuing transformation from its Cold War configuration, and will result in a global posture that is more flexible, agile, and better-suited to fighting terrorism. The world reaction has been mixed—while some foreign observers accept aspects of the Bush administration's rationale for the proposal, many detect a variety of unspoken motives behind the decision:
"The Korean government is scrambling to buy time and will request the United States to delay its plan to withdraw a large portion of the troops now stationed here….President Roh Moo-hyun is now unveiling his plans for the Korean military to be independent of foreign support. But this will mean spending a lot more money than is now earmarked for defense [which] worries economic watchers concerned about Korea's slumping economy. Many also believe the reduction in U.S. troops will leave a 'security vacuum.'…A survey conducted by The Korea Herald and published Monday said that despite growing anti-American sentiment here among young South Koreans, a majority of lawmakers want to maintain the status quo of U.S. troops on the peninsula."
—The Korea Herald, August 17, 2004
"This painful break with a long tradition may be explained profusely in Washington with more flexibility and the 'alleged compulsion to form smaller units.' But the political component of such a drastic step is obvious. Apparently along the lines of 'those who won't listen have to suffer the consequences,' those eastern European countries like Bulgaria or Hungary, which backed Washington without protest in the war on terror and above all in the Iraq campaign, are profiting from the realignments, while the 'old Europe,' which was so severely reprimanded by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld because of its criticism of America's actions, has to foot the bill."
—Kölnische Rundschau (as summarized by Deutsche Welle), August 17, 2004
"As it gears up for reorganization of U.S. forces overseas, Washington reportedly is seeking expanded defense roles for its allies. The U.S. is likely to seek stronger roles for its military installations as well as increased defense cooperation on missile defense and other issues. The reorganization of the U.S. military presence overseas, intended to improve the operational efficiency, could increase the importance of U.S. military installations in Japan. Japan gives unparalleled host-nation support to U.S. forces, appropriating 244.1 billion yen for the purpose under the fiscal 2004 budget. It is doubtful that the government will be able to convince the public, amid the fiscal crisis, of the need to increase an already massive amount of host-nation support to U.S. forces in Japan as part of the reorganization program."
—The Japan Times, August 17, 2004
"[Y]esterday's announcement, while welcomed by most of the US military establishment, has a distinct feel of rearranging the deck chairs, rather than rethinking the destination. The real issue facing American troops today is that there are too few of them to perform the jobs demanded of them. Mr. Rumsfeld has steadfastly refused to increase the size of the military even as its global commitments continue to grow."
—The Financial Times, August 17, 2004
"Transferring to Romania or Bulgaria several of the brigades withdrawn from Germany is a good way to punish Gerhard Schröder, who dared to oppose the invasion of Iraq. The 73 bases employed tens of thousands of Germans. Another benefit that the Pentagon does not trumpet: reducing the number of Americans in Korea means reducing the impact of the nuclear blackmail Pyongyang desires."
—Le Figaro, August 17, 2004
"Even before U.S. President George W. Bush uttered a word of yesterday's historic speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Cincinnati, it was obvious his message would be viewed through a deeply political prism. How could it not be? It's presidential election season, the Commander-in-Chief is under pressure because of an unexpectedly costly and bloody military effort in Iraq, and here he is announcing that as many as 70,000 U.S. troops, most of them now stationed in Europe, will be repatriated over the next decade. For a populace increasingly sensitive to the human cost of war—close to half the 138,000 American troops in Iraq are either National Guard or reservists—that's a guaranteed winner."
—The Globe and Mail, August 17, 2004
"When moving its troops to 'hot spots', the Pentagon will in future rely on its 'new possessions'—former Soviet bases and Warsaw Pact facilities in countries which are now part of NATO. America's strategists no longer intend to spare Moscow's easily hurt feelings in this respect."
—Komsomolskaya Pravda, August 17, 2004