US President Donald Trump said on Monday he would cut the number of US troops in Germany to 25,000 by September, faulting the close US ally for failing to meet NATO’s defence spending target of 2% of GDP.
Mr Trump claimed that Germany is “delinquent for billions of dollars” and said he was reducing the US military presence to roughly 25,000 service members as retaliation “until they pay”.
Germany is the European country where most US troops are posted, with 35,000 soldiers deployed there along with 17,000 American civilians employed by the US military. Some 12,000 German civilians also work in jobs connected with the deployment.
US troops have been stationed in Germany since 1945, initially as occupation forces after the end of WWII and later under the NATO umbrella.
The possibility of a troop reduction has been under consideration for some time. Last August Deutsche Weller reported:
“It is actually offensive to assume that the US taxpayer must continue to pay to have 50,000-plus Americans in Germany, but the Germans get to spend their surplus on domestic programs,” US Ambassador Richard Grenell told the DPA news agency, in comments carried widely by German media on Friday.
His remarks come after the US ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, tweeted that her country would be happy for the American troops in Germany to move there instead: “Poland meets its 2% of GDP spending obligation towards NATO. Germany does not. We would welcome American troops in Germany to come to Poland.”
US President Donald Trump had also mentioned the possibility of moving some American troops from Germany to Poland in talks with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Washington in June, something that was also mentioned by Grenell. LINK
There have been several other disagreements between the US and Germany over the last year which may have also been contributing factors, including Germany’s refusal to deploy armed forces to a US-led naval force in the Persian Gulf to patrol the Strait of Hormuz, or to Syria to fight the ‘Islamic State’ terrorist group, as well as strong differences of opinion over the Nordstream 2 pipeline.
Nonetheless, officials from both countries have stated that the move does not represent a weakening of their strategic ties:
Following the president’s comments, German Ambassador (to the US) Emily Haber said US troops are in Europe to defend transatlantic security and to project US power abroad, according to Reuters.
“Our cooperation on military and security matters has always been very close and will remain so,” Ms Haber said during an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, Reuters reported. “US troops … are not there to defend Germany. They are there to defend the transatlantic security. … They are also there to project American power in Africa, in Asia.”
Mr Trump’s latest remarks suggest that the troop drawdown is a form of sanction against the country for allegedly not paying its share of defence costs.
When the pending decision first became known on 5 June, The Guardian reported:
(A) senior administration official said the 9,500 troops would be sent elsewhere: some to Poland, some to other allied countries, and the rest would return home. The official said there was less need for the large contingent in Germany because of overall increased defence spending by the US-led Nato military alliance. LINK
The Independent stated of the decision:
The move, which has not been approved by lawmakers or discussed with Nato or Germany officials, has faced criticism from several prominent Republicans, allies of the president, who have written a letter demanding the president reverse his decision fearing that a slimmer military presence in Europe could encourage “Russian aggression and opportunism.” LINK
The letter to the president was signed by 22 Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee (four Republican members of the committee did not sign the letter)
A report by Reuters comments:
Last week, sources told Reuters that German officials as well a number of U.S. officials at the White House, State Department and Pentagon were surprised by the Wall Street Journal report and they offered explanations ranging from Trump’s pique over the G7 to the influence of Richard Grenell, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany and a Trump loyalist.
“There is sure to be significant bipartisan opposition to this move in Congress, so it is possible any actual moves are significantly delayed or even never implemented,” said Phil Gordon of the Council on Foreign Relations think tank,
“This move will further erode allies’ faith in NATO and U.S. defense guarantees,” Gordon added, saying it may also “weaken the deterrence of Russia or anyone else who might threaten a NATO member.” LINK
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