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How big is the US military? Where are US military bases in Europe?

The US has dozens of military bases all over the world, meaning it can project power at a moments notice wherever it deems necessary.

Soldiers of an airborne brigade of the US Army are seen at the Adazi Military Base of the Latvian armed forces in Adazi, Latvia.
Gints IvuskansAFP

Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, citing the need to 'de-nazify and demilitarize' the country. Really, Ukraine joining NATO poses too much of a threat to Russia and what it sees as its sphere of influence. Having a neighbour join the opposite side is a scenario the US has seen in the past with Cuba in the 1960s, a nation still embargoed some 60 years later.

The US, as the world's most foremost military hegemon, maintains hundreds of military installations worldwide. Many are inside the US, while plenty remain outside its borders in some of the world's most remote places. The formation of the US Space Force during the Trump presidency opens the door for future space military expansion, but for now the nation is happy to be deployed in over 70 countries worldwide.

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How many bases does the US have?

According to the US Department of Defence 2015 Base Structure Report, there are nearly 562,000 facilities, which includes single buildings and structures, on over 4,800 sites worldwide. This covers over 24.9 million acres. In terms of actual sites, this meant 513 active installations worldwide. To put this in some sort of context, Britain, France and Russia maintain around 30 bases on foreign soil, combined.

This report was created in the context of needing to cut federal spending, and shutting down a number of these sites to reduce government spending was the hope.

But David Vine, a professor of political anthropology at the American University in Washington, DC, claimed in a 2015 book that this number was much higher, 750. His book, Base Nation: How US military bases abroad harm America and the World, says there are 120 bases in Japan, 119 Germany and 73 in South Korea.

In terms of troop deployments, 173,000 troops were deployed in 159 countries according to US military data from 2020.

What role does NATO play?

The US has been a part of NATO since its creation in 1949. According to Al Jazeera, Europe was home to 60,000 US troops in 2021, though this number has swelled in the first two months of 2022 due to war in Ukraine. Since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, the US has added an extra 14,000 troops to Europe.

Defending the borders of NATO are a key priority with the fighting so close to the alliance. The US maintains bases in many European countries, including as far east as Poland, Estonia and Turkey, the latter of which was a contributing factor to the development of the aforementioned Cuba missile crisis.


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