Powell addresses Russian fears about U.S. presence in E. Europe

January 28, 2004|By William Neikirk | William Neikirk,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

MOSCOW - Secretary of State Colin L. Powell sought yesterday to allay Russian concerns over a growing American military presence in countries that once were part of the Soviet empire, saying, "We are not trying to surround anyone."

In a radio interview, Powell said the U.S. might put small, temporary military facilities in several former Warsaw Pact countries that would be used for training of forces or as air bases for flying to crisis points in Central Asia, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.

The U.S. has small military facilities in several former Soviet Republics, including Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. A State Department spokesman called them "forward projection points."

But Powell emphasized that such facilities pose no threat to Russia, and that there would not be large U.S. armies any closer to Russia.

He said that over a 12-year period, the number of U.S. forces in Europe has dropped sharply. There were 315,000 U.S. troops in Europe 12 years ago, he said, adding that the U.S. presence will soon go well below 100,000 troops.

He said he is asked frequently about concerns the U.S. is trying to encircle Russia, but with troop levels down, he said, "nobody should be concerned that somehow the United States is building up its forces to be a threat to anyone or to surround anyone."

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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