Luxembourg long occupied an important strategic position on the European chessboard. From the 16th century onwards, the country was drawn into the numerous wars fought for the hegemony in Europe by the Spanish Habsburgs and the Valois, and finally the Bourbons of France. The city of Luxembourg was progressively transformed into one of the most renowned fortresses of Europe, a true "Gibraltar of the North".
In 1815 Luxembourg became a separate political entity, with the aim of erecting a barrier against France. The Congress of Vienna brought about an additional complication regarding the international status of the Grand Duchy. The latter became a member of the German Confederation, an association of 39 German states essentially pledging mutual defence. The fortified town of Luxembourg thus became a federal fortress. Integration into the German Confederation enabled a Prussian garrison to be stationed at the fortress, an efficient protection to contain a French attack.
Today the Luxembourg Army has a strength of approximately 430 professional soldiers, about 340 enlisted recruits, and 110 civilians. The country has no navy or air force. A 1967 law made the army an all-volunteer force under civilian control A 2002 law allows EU citizens, under certain conditions, to join the Luxembourg Army.
In 2005 Luxembourg spent approximately $310 million on defense, or about 0.85% of GDP. Luxembourg has participated in the European Corps (EUROCORPS) since 1994 and has contributed troops to UNPROFOR, IFOR, SFOR, and KFOR missions in the former Yugoslavia. Luxembourg has one officer serving in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the European Union's ALTHEA mission and, as of February 2008, had a 23-person contingent in Kosovo as its contribution to KFOR. The Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg participated in the Balkans peacekeeping effort since 1992, deploying 528 personnel as of February 9, 2001.
Luxembourg participates in the NATO ISAF mission in Afghanistan; it had nine soldiers integrated into the Belgian forces deployed there. Luxembourg takes part in EU- and NATO-sponsored missions in Africa. It committed to sending a team of de-mining experts to participate in UNIFIL in Lebanon. Luxembourg financially supported international peacekeeping missions during the 1991 Gulf War and in Rwanda and Albania and provided humanitarian aid to Iraq. The army also participated in humanitarian relief missions such as setting up refugee camps for Kurds and providing emergency supplies to Albania.
Tucked away in the smallest nation of the North Atlantic Alliance is an organization whose services are used by all member nations with the exception of Iceland. The NATO Maintenance and Supply Organization (NAMSO), the largest logistics organization of NATO, is headquartered in the City of Luxembourg. Conceived through an initiative of the United States, NAMSO was created by the North Atlantic Council on 2 April 1958. The Organization consists of a Board of Directors and an executive arm, the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA), the principal logistics support management agency for the alliance. Its responsibilities include procuring goods and services as well as arranging maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services for the various weapon systems used collaboratively by NATO members.
The US Defense Department said 17 March 2006 that it planned to cease operations at the Army Prepositioned Site at Bettembourg, Luxembourg, by the end of September 2006. The facility was no longer needed "due to U.S. European Command force-structure realignment" which resulted in the need for less storage space for military materiel.
The Sanem, Luxembourg Warehouses Service Agency celebrated its 30th Anniversary 08 January 2009,. The event included speeches from U.S. Ambassador Ann Wagner, Luxembourg Defense Minister Jean-Louis Schiltz and a tour of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Central Region Storage Facility here. "The importance of Sanem as a logistics hub has been recognized for many years by the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense," Ambassador Wagner said. "The superb reputation of WSA and its highly skilled workers is widely appreciated."
The facility is home to 85 perent of USAFE's War Reserve Materiel which includes vehicles, aerospace ground equipment, aircraft tanks, tacks, adaptors, and pylons, Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources and other airfield support equipment items valued at over $350 million, according to Maj. Adrian Crowley, 435th Materiel Maintenance Squadron commander. WSA maintains, reconstitutes, and stores WRM in a posture to rapidly deploy worldwide within 24 hours for any contingency.
The WSA was established and designated by the government of Luxembourg to perform all the services set forth in a memorandum of understanding between Luxembourg and the United States dating back to December 1978. The U.S. Air Force established the CRSF in 1994 and oversees WSA site operations.
The city of Luxembourg served as headquarters for General George S. Patton's U.S. Third Army. General Patton is buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery.
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