In a recent wave of international demonstrations, groups from various parts of the world are voicing opposition against the US military’s expansion overseas. Mass protests have erupted in major cities, demanding a re-evaluation of US foreign policy and a redirection of resources towards more pressing global issues.
The expansion has seen the establishment of new US military bases in strategic regions, such as Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The goal is to counter the growing influence of emerging powers, like Russia and China, and ensuring ‘stability’ in areas where anti-US aggression sentiments are on the rise.
In Germany, thousands of demonstrators from across Europe gathered near the Ramstein Air Base last June to protest the G7’s decision to send weapons to Ukraine instead of addressing urgent global concerns such as climate change, unemployment, and poverty. The protesters also called for the withdrawal of the Ramstein US Air Base arguing its presence only escalates regional tensions. The US military facility in Ramstein, Germany is also the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Allied Air Command headquarters, hosting 54,000 US troops — the largest in Europe.
During the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, last May, hundreds of protesters took to the streets to demand the removal of US military bases in Japan. The protestors voiced their grievances against the environmental, social, and security concerns associated with the presence of these bases on the island. The demonstrators urged the G7 leaders to address the longstanding issue of US military presence, a point of contention between the local community and the Japanese government.
Japan hosts the largest number of US military bases overseas totaling 120 active bases, followed closely by Germany with 119 and South Korea with 73. Local communities in Japan have long voiced their opposition to military bases. Okinawa for instance has been one of the most vocal anti-US military base communities in the world constantly protesting against the violence perpetrated by US base personnel. In 1945, the US dropped two nuclear warheads in Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing at least 110,000 people.
In the Philippines earlier this year, the Marcos Jr. regime has once again kowtowed to imperialist dictates by allowing the US to expand its military footprint thirty years after a popular anti-war movement ended permanent US military presence in the country. Using the lopsided deal Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the US intends to establish five additional military facilities in vital positions across the archipelago. Boasting the deal under the pretext of ‘modernization of US-PH alliance,’ the US was admittedly on a mission to ensure power projection and influence in the region, citing China’s continued advance towards Southeast Asia. This move has escalated military tensions in the region, undermining peace, and stability not just in the Philippines but across Asia Pacific.
The Filipino masses have suffered immensely from hosting US military bases. Hundreds of cases of rape, child abuse, killings, and toxic waste pollution have been documented in the past decades, leading to heightened opposition against US military bases in the country. In 2014, US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton killed Filipina transgender woman Jennifer Laude. Pemberton was eventually convicted in Philippine courts but was later granted absolute pardon by the fascist Duterte regime. The case sparked massive protests demanding justice for Laude and denouncing continued US military presence in the Philippines.
According to data from the Cato Institute, the US has about 750 military bases in 80 countries – a conservative figure given the Pentagon releases very limited information, so the actual number may be even higher. In addition, data suggests that supporting hundreds of these bases abroad costs US taxpayers an estimated 55 billion dollars annually.
The NATO has played a significant role in expanding US military influence. Since its establishment in 1949, the NATO has functioned as a front for US military power, allowing the US to project its influence across Europe.
This military expansionist agenda is an effort of the US to regain its footing amid its own strategic decline and counter the growth of the rising economic and military prowess of China and Russia. In the guise of the overused ‘world peace and stability’ slogan, the US desperately clings to its war allies in Asia Pacific and seeks to consolidate NATO only to provoke further wars of aggression.
Since 2017, the US and NATO have established new military facilities in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, and Slovakia — a noticeable expansion towards the Russian territory despite previous agreements on NATO presence in Eastern Europe. This expansionist move has undoubtedly contributed to the deterioration of the US-Russian relations and triggered Russia to invade Ukraine.