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Shutting RAF Mildenhall ‘supported’ by EUCOM but US general pushes for more forces in Europe

PUBLISHED: 08:42 18 April 2017 | UPDATED: 09:55 04 August 2017

RAF Mildenhall

RAF Mildenhall

Reports that the United States European Command (EUCOM) was rethinking the closure of RAF Mildenhall have been denied.

The US Department of Defense made the decision to close RAF Mildenhall, home to the 100th Air Refuelling Wing and more than 3,300 airmen, in 2015.

The base is tabled to close in 2023, with 15 European US bases closing in total. RAF Mildenhall is the largest to close.

The closures are implemented by EUCOM, who according to a statement seen by news site Stars and Stripes are reviewing the decision in response to the heightened security situation in Europe.

The statement from EUCOM said: “Considering the current European security environment, it is a prudent measure to review some of the decisions under the January 2015 European Infrastructure Consolidation (EIC) effort.”

If EUCOM, whose commander General Curtis Scaparrotti is on record as wanting to increase the number of troops in Europe, do decide against closing RAF Mildenhall down, the closures could still go ahead regardless.

The ultimate decision is down to the US Department of Defense (DoD).

President Donald Trump’s recent and sudden reversal on intervention in Syria could strengthen the chances of RAF Mildenhall staying, with the refuelling wing often playing a role in Middle East exercises.

This combined with a “resurgent” Russia, with the invasion of Ukraine and conflict over Syrian policy, could see the number of US forces in Europe increase.

However, President Trump’s lukewarm attitude towards NATO could conversely lead to a withdrawal of support, with the President known to believe the US spends too much defending Europe.

EUCOM leader General Scaparrotti, who is also NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told the House Armed Services Committee on March 28: “In the east, a resurgent Russia has turned from partner to antagonist as it seeks to reemerge as a global power.

“Countries along Russia’s periphery, including Ukraine and Georgia, struggle against Moscow’s malign activities in military actions.

“In the southeast, strategic drivers of instability converge on key allies, especially Turkey; which has to simultaneously manage Russia, terrorist and refugee flows.”

In response to the report by Stars and Stripes, Lieutenant Colonel David Faggard, EUCOM spokesman, said: “EUCOM has not initiated any official request to review any of the sites planned for closure under EIC.

“All previous decisions announced in 2015 are continuing on as planned as we continue to support previous decisions announced by DoD.

“EUCOM consistently reviews plans and basing that is all that has happened. The EIC effort was programmed over a number of fiscal years and to date, none of these sites have been returned to the host nation as we are putting the necessary infrastructure in place to facilitate mission and personnel moves necessary.

“Since the EIC effort began in 2013 the US has returned 57 sites.”

Matt Hancock, MP for W

Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, said: “The US service personnel at Mildenhall will continue to be welcomed by the local community should the decision be made to keep the base open.

“We hugely value the enormous contribution they make to our security, which is greatly appreciated in these uncertain times.

“The USAF have been on the site since 1950 and they are a valued presence in the community of Mildenhall. Nevertheless, the formal position currently is for closure in 2023 and we must be prepared for that outcome.

“We must continue with forward planning of the site until we hear of a definite change to that plan from the US government.”

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