Trump Blindsides NATO With Partial US Troop Withdrawal From Germany


Trump Blindsides NATO With Partial US Troop Withdrawal From Germany

US President Donald Trump's alleged plan to withdraw 9,500 American troops from bases in Germany by September fits the leader's "America First" policy aimed at strengthening the United States and complies with his previous statements regarding the need to make changes to NATO

BRUSSELS (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 09th June, 2020) US President Donald Trump's alleged plan to withdraw 9,500 American troops from bases in Germany by September fits the leader's "America First" policy aimed at strengthening the United States and complies with his previous statements regarding the need to make changes to NATO.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported, citing US government officials, that Trump had directed the Department of Defense to pull some 9,500 troops out of Germany, which is nearly a third of the US military contingent in the European country. The move blindsided US allies in Europe, as Trump did not consult them on the issue.

Back in 2017, Trump said that Germany's financial contribution to the alliance was not enough, given that it was one of the leading European countries.

"We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change," the president wrote on Twitter.

In 2018, Trump had already shaken NATO by demanding that European members take a larger share of the cost of their own defense in hand. The US leader particularly targeted Germany, the wealthiest European country, which only paid a mere 1.2 percent of its GDP for its defense. At the time, only four NATO member states in Europe the United Kingdom, France, Poland and Greece allocated 2 percent of their GDP on defense, the target agreed by the alliance. As a result, Berlin in November pledged to reach the NATO defense spending target by 2031.


At a press conference after the 2018 NATO summit in Brussels, Trump accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of making Russia rich by buying its gas and oil, while it was Washington that paid for German's defense against Moscow. Merkel did not comment on the statement but has since avoided meetings with the US leader. For example, the chancellor refused to attend the June G7 summit in Washington, claiming it was due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, in May 2018, Merkel said that Europe could no longer rely on the United States to protect it. The statement came days after Washington announced its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, which angered European parties to the 2015 deal.

According to the WSJ, Trump's intention to withdraw about 9,500 troops from Germany had been under consideration by Washington since last September and has nothing to do with Merkel's decision to not attend the G7 meeting. Nevertheless, the move may trigger a new wave of tensions between the countries. In light of the allegations, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the Bild newspaper that relations between Washington and Berlin close partners in the transatlantic alliance � were complicated. According to the minister, if the United States eventually withdraws part of the troops, Germany will take this into account.

The bad relations between the two leaders can be a sign that Trump considers Germany as a systemic rival of the US, since the European country is very successful economically and exports, for example, its luxury cars to the US, while the US' luxury cars are taxed by Europe and do not sell well there.


So far, Berlin, as well as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, have not received any official confirmation of the planned US troop reduction in the European country.

On Monday, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer refused to speculate on media reports regarding the situation but said US troops were key to security cooperation. Meanwhile, an official from the ministry told Sputnik that there was no link between the decision of the US president and Merkel's refusal to go to Washington for the G7 summit, which was postponed "purely for health reasons linked to the COVID-19 outbreak."

Nevertheless, Trump's decision has shocked the German government and lawmakers, as Berlin was not aware of Washington's intentions to withdraw troops.

"Germany has been saving on its defense budget at the expense of its allies in NATO, the US but also the other European members, for many years. So, the reaction of Donald Trump is understandable," Alexander Gauland, the parliamentary leader of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, told Sputnik.

At the same time, the lawmaker added that the US remained a NATO member and must coordinate strategic decisions with the allies.

"Serious changes in Europe's security architecture must not take place without coordination. The functioning of NATO is in the interests of the partners on both sides of the Atlantic. Neither the German Bundeswehr nor a possible European defense alliance will be able in the foreseeable future to replace NATO as a security guarantee for Germany and Europe," Gauland added.

In any case, Berlin should abandon the idea that it can shift responsibility for Germany's external security to others for cost reasons, the lawmaker concluded.

Meanwhile, Lars Patrick Berg, a member of the European Parliament from the AfD party, told Sputnik that the US troops stationed in Germany were symbolic, rather than necessary to the country's defense capability.

"The timing is unfortunate, and it would have been much better to discuss these decisions with allies, but, ultimately, this will make little difference to the security of Germany," Berg added.

At the end of the Cold War in 1990, there were about 200,000 US troops across Europe, with 41,000 of them being in Germany. Currently, 34,500 US troops are stationed in Germany. In addition, Washington involved 17,000 US civilians and 12,000 German citizens in the work at military bases in the European country. The reduction means that 25,000 US troops would remain in Germany.


Poland, one of the European NATO members, immediately proposed its territory as a base for US troops in Europe. Last week, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki expressed hope that Trump would redeploy US troops to Poland from Germany.

Commenting on Washington's intention, Sven Biscop, an expert of European strategy and security at the Egmont, Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels, told Sputnik that it must be understood that the ultra-modern US bases in Germany serve above all the US. Above all, they are logistical bases allowing the US to project their forces toward theaters of operation, such as Afghanistan or the middle East, the expert said, adding that their strategic value is very important for Washington.

"Merkel's Germany has, of course, understood Trump's desire to see the country secure more of its own defense. German military budgets have been increased and projects are underway. Their readiness is improving. Donald Trump's logical decision will speed up the search by Germany and the Europeans for a European defense solution. Germany could, for example, finance the increase in European intervention capacity and it would be other European countries which would ensure the deployment of forces," Biscop said.

According to the expert, France could ensure the expeditionary nucleus of European defense, in the Sahel, for example, while Germany could be more involved in the defensive nucleus, facing Russia, and become the largest contributor to a European defense fund.

"It remains to be seen whether this is an announcement effect by Trump, or whether he will have time to impose it on his military hierarchy before the presidential elections next November," Biscop added.

Meanwhile, Virginie Joron, a French member of the European Parliament, told Sputnik that Germany had a problem with the notion of the army, which is understandable after the tragedy of World War II. However, she noted, Berlin should not pretend to be surprised, as Trump is doing what he had said he would do � reduce the exposure of the US, also in the Middle East or Afghanistan.

"But what I find incredible, is the fact that the traditional press in Europe and, of course, in the US, is entering an anti-Trump campaign, to an incredible level. The campaign is starting and Trump is responsible for everything bad on the planet! It is ludicrous. Germany should start by coming to the right level of spending for European defense, then they will criticize others," Joron said.

According to Frederick Benjamin Hodges, a retired lieutenant general and a former top US army commander in Europe, Trump's decision does not seem attached to any kind of strategy. The reason Washington has troops abroad is not to protect Germans but to benefit from it. The reduction would complicate the logistics and readiness of the US military.