By Tom Squitieri, Talk Media News
WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Mark Esper touted his accomplishments as Pentagon chief on Tuesday, saying that “the United States will remain the global security partner of choice” and that the new focus on China and Russia is paying off.
Esper, speaking before The Atlantic Council, said it is likely that the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, now based at U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria, Germany, will be relocated closer to the Russian border in one of the newer NATO member nations. That force is part of the almost 12,000 U.S. troops now in Germany that are to be transferred back to the U.S. as part of the withdrawal announced by President Trump last summer.
He also touted deepening ties with India, where he will visit next week, and other Indo-Pacific nations as to a counter and hedge against China.
Esper also warned allies they need to meet the financial and military obligations of military agreements. “There are no free riders to our common security,” he said.
Esper said he also plans to expand the very successful State Partnership Program. — where National Guards units from each U.S jurisdiction train military units from other nations — from the current 82 locations to at least a dozen more over the course of the five years.
That was his only reference to him staying on the job after the November election — a status that has garnered speculation in Washington.
The major surprise was his firmness on the future of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. It is now the only brigade-sized U.S. ground combat unit stationed full time in Europe.
“The signing of the defense cooperation agreement with Poland, my recent meetings with defense ministers from Romania and Bulgaria, and correspondence received from Baltic states, there is now the real opportunity of keeping the 2nd Cavalry Regiment forward in some of these countries on an enduring basis,” Esper said during his remarks.
When NATO expanded east to take in former nations of the Warsaw Pact, it promised Moscow there would be no permanent NATO troops in those nations.
Instead, the U.S. and NATO nations employ a sleight of hand by calling troops sent to those nations rotational. For example, the Army recently announced a series of deployments in those nations, including reactivating its once Europe-based V Corps as part of a continuous rotation of forces to Poland. That V Corps is now based at Ft. Knox, Kentucky.
As for Asia, Esper touted more than $160 billion worth of projects underway, including providing F-35 aircraft to Japan, Seahawk and Apache helicopters to India, F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, “delivering excess defense articles to partners in the region,” such as. For instance, providing Vietnam additional high-endurance coast guard cutter to Vietnam for enhanced maritime security in the South China Sea.