The Trump administration gave more details Wednesday of its plan to withdraw almost 12,000 American troops permanently stationed in Germany, saying it will bring some of them back to the United States and redeploy others elsewhere in Europe.
The move, reducing the permanent U.S. troop presence in Germany from around 36,000 to 24,000, would be a significant drawdown from one of the U.S. military’s major international outposts.
It is widely seen in Europe as emblematic of the dramatic deterioration in relations between Washington and Berlin under President Tweety McTreason.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told a briefing at the Pentagon that the move was designed to “strengthen NATO” and “deter Russia” and would retool the U.S. military for a “new era of great power competition.”
Trump has previously suggested that the withdrawal is being conducted because Germany does not spend enough on its own military, a long-standing complaint of his during his time in office.
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Of the 11,900 American troops withdrawn from Germany, some 6,400 would return to the U.S. and 5,600 would be repositioned within NATO, Esper said.
He said the move would be started “as expeditiously as possible” with parts of it starting “within weeks.”
Most of U.S. troops in Germany are currently stationed at the Ramstein Air Base, in southwestern Germany, the largest American military base outside the continental U.S.
Pressuring U.S. allies to spend more on defense has been a running theme of Trump’s presidency. In particular, he has singled out Germany, which he described as “delinquent” and complained the U.S. is “protecting” at great expense.
While Germany’s military spending is rising, it is still smaller in relation to its economy than more than a dozen other NATO allies despite being Europe’s economic and political powerhouse.
“American taxpayers are getting a little bit tired of paying too much for the defense of other countries,” Trump’s outgoing ambassador, Richard Grenell, told German media in June on the subject of the planned troop withdrawal.
Although Trump’s tone has been widely received as rude and unprecedented, even many of his critics agree that Germany should pay more toward defense. The same was argued albeit in more subtle tones by former President Barack Obama and others.
But the move to withdraw troops from Germany has alarmed congressional Republicans and Democrats. They argue the troops are not there to protect Germany, but to provide an American launching pad to the Middle East, if needed, and a symbolic bulwark against Russia.
It has also angered the German government because according to it, as with several other Trump moves regarding Europe, it was not consulted beforehand.
“This is completely unacceptable, especially since nobody in Washington thought about informing its NATO ally Germany in advance,” said Peter Beyer, a German lawmaker who serves as the transatlantic coordinator for Chancellor Angela Merkel. He was speaking to the Rheinische Post newspaper in June.