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Having military bases abroad enables the United States to project power globally, which is essential for a country with the world’s largest economy. It is also vital for U.S. national security interests as it provides air and naval bases to include forward-deployed forces such as fighter jets, navy ships, and transport aircraft. In addition, military support facilities provide medical care and logistical support during natural disasters or military operations overseas.
The United States does not have foreign military bases in the U.S. There are, however, foreign-friendly military installations in the United States. These are installations that house U.S. and allied forces from other countries.
The distinction is essential because no foreign soldiers are permanently in the United States. The only exceptions are the military and civilian personnel that staff the installations. Moreover, foreigners living and working in these installations are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.
However, this is not to say that no U.S. military personnel are abroad to help allies with their defense needs. It is readily apparent that most American servicemen and women serve in other countries.
Although many military installations are in foreign countries, most are in the United States. Moreover, unlike foreign military installations, American military bases abroad are not occupied by the U.S. military alone. That is because the U.S. is not using them for its defense.
So you could say that there are foreign military bases in the U.S. But they are leased to other countries, allowing them to house U.S. and allied forces. All told, there are about 800 US installations throughout the world.
History of Foreign Military Bases
Most foreign military bases were established during the Cold War when the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in an arms race. The U.S. used its military bases to pressure the Soviets from expanding their influence and from threatening U.S. allies. The United States also uses its military bases to project power and provide a regional security blanket against potential threats.
However, there were some foreign military bases established before then. One example is Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The United States established a coaling station there in 1898 to avoid sailing to Britain for coaling stations. However, it was not until 1903 that the U.S. leased the land for two naval bases.
In 1899, the U.S. also established a lease on Wake Island. The U.S. needed a place to test their early submarines, and the island was ideal. During World War II, the Japanese occupied the U.S.’s oldest overseas naval base in 1941. After the war, the United States occupied Wake Island.
Other countries followed the American lead and began establishing military bases abroad. Several foreign nationals living on these installations came with all these foreign military bases. They were typically technicians, members of the armed forces, and their families. However, the number of foreign nationals increased significantly during World War II, when the U.S. needed them to help them defeat their enemies.
There are no foreign military bases in the United States. However, there are foreign military installations in the United States. In addition, thousands of foreign nationals are living and working on them to support their allies. Moreover, the U.S. is not using its military bases for its defense, so it does not significantly impact its domestic security.
Having military bases abroad is critical to the United States because it allows them to sail beyond the territorial waters of other countries. It is also vital for the operability of U.S. military missions.