Lord Ismay, the first Secretary General of NATO, famously said that the purpose of the organization was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.”
The announcement today that the US is closing a further 15 bases in Europe, mostly in Germany, shows how times have changed. The Americans no longer see Europe as a priority. It may not be too long until the Americans are no longer “in,” which may also mean the Russians will no longer be “out.” The Germans have not been “down” for a long time.
The timing of the announcement was rather insensitive, coming 24 hours after the terrorist attack in Paris that left twelve dead. At precisely the time that Europe is faced with its most serious threat in decades, the US confirms that Asia is the priority, not Europe, the continent where two world wars began.
In the 1950s and 60s, Britain was gradually withdrawing from the world, closing military bases. The closures reflected waning political, military and economic power. However this announcement is dressed up, it will be perceived the same way. The US is on the way out.