Elijah J. Magnier
More than 750 US military bases have been spread worldwide since World War II when Washington reaped its harvest and presented itself as having saved Europe from the German Nazis. The US’s loss amounted to roughly 416,800 casualties. This includes those killed in action, those who died from wounds or were found dead, the missing, and those who died in concentration camps. In contrast, Moscow lost 24 million people. However, the US victory resulted in a heavy price tag for decades. Europe paid the US hundreds of billions of dollars of compensation in cash and finished paying the bill only a few years ago. But the old continent is paying another price: soft colonialism imposed by the US policy and muscles flexed through the hundreds of military bases deployed in Europe and numerous countries worldwide. That seems insufficient to keep the world under the US’s thumb.
Europe has indeed lost the freedom of its decisions, which was demonstrated by the inability of European leaders to make decisions commensurate with their interests in the sanctions imposed on Russia’s flow of energy to the continent. All the western sanctions against Russia are harming the European population and the economy, just to abide by the US’s will to fight Russia.
It had happened before in 2018 with the Iran-US nuclear agreement when European companies left Iran and paid the price for violating their contracts due to the unilateral US sanctions – decided by President Donald Trump – that harmed European companies. Dozens of European companies were forced to leave Iran for fear of being hit by US sanctions that prohibited commercial deals and energy exploitation in Iranian oil and gas fields.
Following the shortage of energy flow to Europe due to sanctions on Russia, France has announced that it will restart power plants that run on coal. That is a retrograde decade to the era when cleaner energy was unavailable. Germany has also taken this decision for fear of Russia stopping its gas supplies after Europe declared a soft and economic war on Moscow.
Using its political-economic leverage and military supremacy with the spread of its bases worldwide, the US is leading Europe to adopt suicidal decisions. The US trade market is essential to many countries, and its financial system (the SWIFT) imposes most countries to submit to its rules or be excluded from the world market exchange. Moreover, the US military bases have offered a robust tool and evidence of universal hegemony, enabling Washington to intervene worldwide.
The US has conducted multi-mission exercises and manoeuvres throughout these decades in the Western Pacific, over the South China Sea, Taiwan Strait, the Middle East and Europe to be ready to wage wars and maintain control over its areas of influence. Moreover, US bases prevent any great power (Russia) or other emerging nations (China) from controlling or competing with its national security. The US bases scattered around the world are also supposed to send reassurances to its allies that it is close to protecting them when needed. However, it did not do so in the case of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia when both countries were under attacks by the Yemeni Houthis.
The US, especially in the Indo-Pacific, is arming its bases to intimidate China. It has also begun to send more troops and stockpile nukes on the European continent (between 150 and 200 in Europe alone, including Turkey) to confront Russia. The U.S. military operates more than 750 overseas bases scattered in 80 countries around the world.
These bases are divided into two categories: one is called “The Base,” a facility over 10 acres in size with hundreds or thousands of soldiers. These bases make up 60 percent of all US bases. The remaining 40 percent are much smaller and designated as “LILY PADS.” Most U.S. bases include CIA intelligence centers. Other secret CIA facilities are scattered in dozens of countries in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa.
In Japan, which is on China’s doorstep, more than 35,000 U.S. troops operate in 120 military bases, most of them on the island of Okinawa. As for South Korea, China’s neighbor, 73 bases employ 26,400 American troops, with 46 bases on the African continent.
In Germany alone, there are 119 American bases with 35,000 soldiers and 15,000 civilian employees; 12,500 soldiers are in Italy; 9,600 in Britain; 3,200 in Spain; 2,000 in Poland, 1,100 in Belgium, and 3,000 in Jordan. There are American bases in Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Oman, and Djibouti, to name just a few. The US has three times as many bases as embassies and consulates worldwide, while Russia has about 35 bases and China has five.
U.S. military bases are also tasked with simultaneously supporting democratic and dictatorial regimes. A letter to former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from his closest aid, Brian Hook, instructs him on the basic principles of American policy:
“The United States must be careful not to let human rights ideals create obstacles for us. Human rights should be used as a club against America’s adversaries, such as Iran, China, and North Korea. We should not look at dictatorial allies and treat them differently and better than opponents. The reason to pressure anti-American regimes on human rights is a way to impose costs, exert pressure, and take the initiative away from them,” the memo instructs.
The U.S. Army has participated 25 times in wars and hostilities against 15 countries around the world from its bases. Israel has used US bases in Syria and Iraq to strike targets in both countries. This US policy in the Middle East has caused the rise of “Al-Qaeda”, “Hezbollah” and various organizations that want to fight US influence and dominance, drive it out of the Middle East and confront its allies (like Israel).
As if the 750 US bases were insufficient, the US established a military force under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “NATO”, at the beginning of the Cold War, consisting of twelve Western countries. After the end of the rivalry and competition with Moscow, the U.S. raised NATO’s numbers to thirty countries and planned to increase the number to include Finland and Sweden to “besiege” Russia and use additional Western forces to surround it.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that NATO would increase the number of its task forces from 40,000 to 300,000 troops. These forces are subject only to the US Central Command and the objectives. They include other Western troops that serve US interests in wars, not only in Europe to support Ukraine on the ground, but in other countries such as Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Africa and Somalia.
On the other hand, there is much talk about “Arab NATO” and “Asian NATO.” These plans, even if they remain as mere ink on a piece of paper, indicate the determination of the U.S. to expand globally despite the challenges it has begun to feel knocking on its doors. Russia’s war in Ukraine is a direct challenge to U.S. unilateralism and hegemony that China and India (two-thirds of the world) are happily facing. Russia has started to pave the way for all those who want to challenge US global hegemony. It was followed by China, which does not want to open a front with the West, but has shown that it will not submit to any superpower and is next on the list of US objectives after Russia.
It has become clear that several countries on various continents, including the Gulf (Saudi Arabia and the Emirates), known as the U.S. area of influence, do not agree with American hegemony and are saying no to the U.S. However, the road to getting rid of this unilateralism is still a long one.
As long as American military bases exist and Washington insists on its absolute leadership, instability will continue in different parts of the world after confirming its control over Europe. Meanwhile, the end of the war in Ukraine may bring surprises that neither the US nor the world expects. Everything depends on the outcome of this long-lasting war, whether it is limited within Ukraine’s borders or out of control. This depends on the military developments in the coming months. However, one thing has become an unavoidable reality: Despite its hundreds of military bases, including NATO forces, absolute US unilateralism no longer controls the world.
Elijah J Magnier is a veteran war correspondent and senior political risk analyst with over 35 years of experience.