Germany seeks military base on U.S. soil

May 10, 1991|By Charles W. Corddry | Charles W. Corddry,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Germany wants to expand its military presence in the United States and establish a more or less permanent operating base in line with its new entitlement to "equal rights and equal obligations" in the Western alliance, two Bonn legislators said here yesterday.

The defense specialists, members of the governing-coalition parties, said the new meaning of "reciprocity" for unified Germany was that German troops could be stationed in other European countries and the United States, as foreign troops would continue to be based in their country.

Officials in both the State and Defense departments confirmed that Bonn had broached the idea of a Luftwaffe base in this country, with two or more permanently stationed squadrons of German fighter jets.

It would be a much more ambitious undertaking than the training of Luftwaffe pilots who have been rotated through bases in Texas, Arizona and California since the late 1950s.

Americans should not see the development as a case of "the Huns are coming" with army divisions, Woerner Hoyer of the Free Democratic Party's parliamentary defense working group cheerfully told reporters.

It was, rather, the new shape of reciprocity in a "viable alliance" that he said would survive the end of the Cold War.

After all, he quipped, wherever he went in the United States he found military people who had exercised in Garmisch, site of a U.S. military recreation center in the German Alps.

His legislative companion, Bernd Wilz, defense spokesman for the Christian Democratic-Christian Social Union, denied that the "new Germany" would dominate other European states.

The new situation -- for a Germany unified and fully sovereign again -- was one of "equal rights and equal obligations."

Mr. Hoyer pressed the case for a German military presence in the United States "in the spirit of the alliance," even though it would add to Bonn's defense costs at a time of heavy burdens -- the price of rehabilitating eastern Germany, paying for the Soviet military to leave and paying Persian Gulf war costs.

While a Luftwaffe base was "just an idea," both State Department and Pentagon officials said it had considerable merit from political and military viewpoints.

It would be an important factor in strengthening ties between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organization powers, by this reasoning, and would thus help to answer the perennial "whither Germany" question.

German pilot training started in this country in 1955 when Gen. Johannes Steinhoff flew F-84 jets at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona. He was a World War II pilot who became a deputy NATO commander.

In the quarter of a century until 1983, at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, 2,700 West German pilots were trained in F-104 fighters.

German pilots now train at George Air Force Base in California and at a NATO pilot training center at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas.

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