Unwanted Allies: What Influences Negative Domestic Reactions to Deploying Forces into Allied States?

By Atkins, Sean | Air Power History, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Unwanted Allies: What Influences Negative Domestic Reactions to Deploying Forces into Allied States?


Atkins, Sean, Air Power History


An often overlooked consideration in security planning is that severe and policy-shifting consequences can result from the deployment of military forces into an allied state. A negative reaction to the deployment within the host state itself is one of the most visible. In defiance of careful negotiations, domestic dissatisfaction has historically altered policies and security objectives of the host state, deploying state, and larger alliance structure, if applicable. With the rise in media and communication technology fueling international grassroots political movements, it is now more critical than ever that policy planners understand the factors that encourage negative domestic reactions. Growing international concerns have prompted many to establish, or consider establishing, postings in allied countries, and future deployments of this type are currently being planned. Thus, it is also vital to future security studies. Yet despite its importance and relevance, there has been little focus onto this general question within international relations literature. We are left asking: What motivates and encourages negative domestic reactions to the deployment of military forces into an allied state?

The answer is critical to a growing number of nations. Several states maintain a military presence within allied countries today. French military personnel are located in at least nine different allied countries outside of France. British troops can be found in Canada, Germany, and Cyprus. The U.S. military reports that it maintains 702 facilities worldwide. (1) Russian troops are located in several former Soviet countries. India has recently established a base at Farkhor in Tajikistan. (2) The placement of military forces into an allied state occurs often and is done by more than just the United States.

As the world's security landscape and alliance structures become increasingly interwoven, it is increasingly probable that extraterritorial military bases will become the norm. A current example is the Pentagon's plans to restructure the U.S.'s overseas military deployments in order to meet "the nation's evolving security challenges." (3) Kurt Campbell and Celeste Johnson wrote recently in Foreign Affairs that the U.S. "will shift people and assets from safe, secure, and comfortable rear-echelon facilities to jumping-off points closer to the flame." (4)

In these new areas the presence of U.S. forces might spark a negative public reaction. These future host states, which may be relatively less stable, will face heightened protest with intensified results. Being able to anticipate potential uprisings will assist planners and negotiators in determining where to deploy troops and how best to do so.

The following analysis of the U.S. deployment of cruise missiles to the United Kingdom in the early 1980s illuminates some of the more influential factors. These are: 1. the perceived level of threat incurred by hosting the allies, 2. the level of control the host state has over the actions of the visiting forces, 3. the level of mistrust and anti-ally sentiment present in the hosting state, 4. how protestable are the visiting forces.

Cruise Missiles in the UK

Throughout the Cold War, the arsenal disparities between the two super-powers and their allies was often the most critical issue in their relations. Toward the end of the 1970s, a widening asymmetry in U.S. and Soviet theater nuclear forces, which are limited in geographical range, led to "more attention being paid to long and medium range components." (5) Europe was easily within range of the Soviet Union's increasing number of theater nuclear forces and after the removal of Thor and Jupiter intermediate range missiles from Europe, NATO was left only with long range tactical nuclear forces (LRTN). These manned Vulcan and F-111 bombers were considered inadequate as they were too "old and vulnerable to pre-emptive attack, and would have difficulty penetrating Russian air defenses. …

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