Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul said Wednesday that the United States needs to continue rolling back its defenses in Europe and allow countries there to foot the cost of defending the continent.
"You know, it's been 70 years since World War II and I think that the expense for defending Europe really should be borne by Europeans and there should probably be changes as to how many troops" are deployed there, Paul said on WHAS radio's Mandy Connell show.
The United States maintained a strong military presence in Germany after the end of World War II as a deterrent to aggression by the old Soviet Union.
There are more than two dozen U.S. military installations in Germany, including Ramstein Air Base, the headquarters for the U.S. Air Force in Europe. It is near Landsthul Regional Medical Center, the largest American hospital outside the United States and the destination of seriously injured soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Paul didn't call for a complete withdrawal of troops, saying that the country has already drawn down troop levels since the end of the Cold War.
"It's not sort of an all-or-none thing," he said. "We have been removing troops from Germany and various European countries for some time now."
The U.S. kept about a quarter million military personnel in Germany throughout the Cold War, but the number of soldiers and airmen stationed there has dropped to below 54,000.
When Connell noted the presence of Ramstein Air Base and its importance, Paul responded, " I don't think there is any problem with having working relationships with our allies and having joint activities. The question ... is how expensive are these bases? Can we continue to afford them?
"... We have a $2 trillion debt. ... We do have to think about what our policies are in order to have enough money to defend our country."
Connell was prompted to ask the questions by a recent blog posting by the Rev. Hershael York, pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort. He said in an open letter to Paul that he was predisposed to vote for Paul because of his stance against abortion but that several things he has said bother him.
"I have lingering questions about your understanding of foreign policy. ... Are you in favor of closing our military bases in South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Germany, for instance? ... These matters will continue to come before our Congress for the foreseeable future, and I have a right to know how my senators will likely vote on these matters."
Paul didn't say what he would do with the country's seven military bases in South Korea.
But he did say North Korean premier Kim Jong Il has been allowed to play "a sort of nuclear chicken with us" in which he threatens military action and then capitulates when humanitarian aid is offered.
"If we quit feeding them and sending them money, they will get new leadership," he said