US Will Close 15 European Bases

US Will Close 15 European BasesUS Will Close 15 European Bases

The US military will close 15 air bases in Europe, including several in Germany, and a major base in Britain, outgoing US defense secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed.

The biggest base to end operations is at RAF Mildenhall in Britain, which is home to refueling tanker aircraft and special operations forces. Some of the 2,000 military personnel withdrawn from Britain and other countries, such as Portugal, will be shifted to Germany and Italy, DW reported.

Pentagon said there are some 67,000 US troops currently stationed in Europe, including 40,000 in Germany.

The move is expected to save the US government about $500 million in defense spending each year. Pentagon has insisted the savings will not result in a loss of American military power.

“In the end, this transformation of our infrastructure will help maximize our military capabilities in Europe and help strengthen our important European partnerships, so that we can best support our NATO allies and partners in the region,” Hagel said in a statement.

While a number of German bases are to close, the American military presence in the country will actually increase by several hundred troops over the coming years.

The government of Portugal expressed strong dissatisfaction over the “unilateral decision,” accusing Washington of failing to take into account reservations conveyed in discussions in recent years. In Portugal, two-thirds of the military and civilian personnel at Lajes Field will be withdrawn and operations scaled back.

The announcement comes during tensions between Russia and NATO over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, and apparent support of pro-Russia separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine - something the Kremlin has denied.

The plan to pull out of Mildenhall in Britain will be partially offset by US plans to deploy two squadrons of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at nearby Lakenheath.