Pentagon: Commitment to NATO, Europe is ‘Unshakeable’

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2012 — Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta has dis­cussed changes in U.S. force struc­ture in Europe with NATO allies in the region, a Pen­ta­gon spokesman told reporters today.

“There have been thor­ough con­sul­ta­tions with our allies and part­ners through­out Europe about these deci­sions,” Navy Capt. John Kir­by said. “The oth­er thing that we have stressed to them repeat­ed­ly … [is] that our com­mit­ment to the alliance is unshake­able.”

Kirby’s remarks came a day after Panet­ta announced the U.S. Army will with­draw two brigade com­bat teams from Europe, while retain­ing a strong pres­ence in the region with rota­tion­al units.

“Our secu­ri­ty com­mit­ments on the con­ti­nent of Europe remain vital to us, and though the per­ma­nent force pres­ence will be small­er, our com­mit­ment to Europe and our allies and part­ners there will not be dimin­ished at all,” Kir­by said. “We’ll be look­ing at a more inno­v­a­tive way to answer those com­mit­ments, such as through rota­tion­al train­ing and expe­di­tionary require­ments and that kind of thing.” Spe­cif­ic details on how the rota­tion­al pres­ence will work haven’t been nailed down yet, Kir­by said.

The Pen­ta­gon spokesman shared the feed­back from NATO allies and part­ners after the defense sec­re­tary spoke to them regard­ing the changes.

“[NATO allies were] very grate­ful for hav­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty to hear from [the sec­re­tary] direct­ly about what our plans are,” Kir­by said. “I think it’s safe to say they all under­stand where we’re going, what it means for them, and I think, also, very appre­cia­tive of the fact that our com­mit­ments, again, to Europe are not dimin­ish­ing.

“They, too, are fac­ing a dif­fi­cult fis­cal envi­ron­ment and chang­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty require­ments for their own forces,” he con­tin­ued. “So I think they very much under­stand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

Kir­by also reaf­firmed the Defense Department’s com­mit­ment to mis­sile defense sys­tems being devel­oped in Europe and said he was­n’t aware of any changes to com­mit­ments in the region.

“We remain 100-per­cent com­mit­ted to the mis­sile defense sys­tem that we’ve been devel­op­ing there for Europe and for the defense of our allied part­ners there,” Kir­by said. “We’re very com­fort­able with the capa­bil­i­ties that we have and will be able to main­tain in Europe to con­tribute to the NATO alliance and the defense of our allies.”

He also under­scored the impor­tance of main­tain­ing some troop pres­ence in the region.

“The con­ti­nent of Europe sits astride sev­er­al lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and avenues of trans­porta­tion and prox­im­i­ty to oth­er parts of the world which are impor­tant to us and our part­ners,” Kir­by said. “We saw [that recent­ly] with the oper­a­tions in Libya and NATO’s involve­ment in that how crit­i­cal the sup­port was that we received, and oth­er part­ners in the alliance received, from bases in Europe. It’s still a very impor­tant part of the world.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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