Trump instructs the withdrawal of US forces from Germany

The U.S. president has ordered the Pentagon to reduce the number of U.S. military forces stationed in Germany, where a heavy presence of GIs has long served as a symbol of Washington’s commitment to protecting its European allies.

The White House would not confirm the plan, which was first reported  on Friday but the  current and former officials are familiar with it said , “ Trump would cap the U.S. military presence at 25,000 — requiring a reduction of nearly 30 percent, or roughly 9,700 troops”.

According to the recent data available,  Pentagon deployment report there were 34,674 U.S. military personnel stationed in Germany, including 20,774 from the Army and 12,980 from the Air Force as of March 31,2020.

Some 19,000 additional civilian employees support the uniformed military forces, and that number would almost certainly be cut as a result of the planned withdrawals.

The reduction in forces stands to reverse an increase in the U.S. military presence in Europe during Trump’s administration, which NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has trumpeted repeatedly to refute any suggestion that America’s commitment to the alliance might be wavering under the president who once called it “obsolete” and who has repeatedly bashed allies for not spending enough on their own militaries.

Stoltenberg has pointed to the increased U.S. presence as part of NATO’s effort to step up deterrence against an increasingly aggressive and assertive Russia. Moscow undoubtedly will cheer any reduction in the U.S. military footprint in Europe, which the Kremlin has regarded as a menacing presence since the days of the Cold War.

“Sometimes we also hear that the U.S. is leaving Europe — that’s not correct,” Stoltenberg said at a conference in London on the sidelines of a NATO leaders’ summit in December. “The U.S. is actually increasing their presence in Europe … So there’s more U.S. presence in Europe, more U.S. troops in Europe. I can’t think about any stronger way to demonstrate U.S. commitment to Europe than that.”

There were no such indications that NATO officials had been briefed on Trump’s plan ahead of time. In response to a request for comment on Saturday, a NATO spokesman referred questions to the U.S.

In recent months, the U.S. president has occasionally caught allies off-guard with unilateral military action, including an abrupt withdrawal from Northern Syria that set off turmoil in the region, and the surprise targeted killing of an Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, that forced NATO to suspend its training mission in Iraq for fear of reprisals on allied forces there.

Trump’s pullout from Northern Syria put the U.S. in conflict with Turkey, another NATO ally, and prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to complain that he was witnessing the “brain death” of the alliance.

On Friday, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, John Ullyot, issued a statement that neither confirmed nor denied Trump’s drawdown plan for Germany.

“While we have no announcements at this time, as commander in chief, President Trump continually reassesses the best posture for the United States military forces and our presence overseas,” Ullyot said. “The United States remains committed to working with our strong ally Germany to ensure our mutual defense, as well as on many other important issues.”

In the meantime, the U.S. has become engulfed in a nationwide crisis over racism and police brutality, with Trump threatening to deploy active-duty military forces on the streets of his own cities.

Trump’s withdrawal plan appeared to be less a form of direct retribution for Merkel’s G7 decision, but rather a follow-through on previous threats to reduce the U.S. military presence in Germany, which were conveyed by the U.S. ambassador, Ric Grenell, as part of the overall White House criticism of Berlin’s military spending as too meager.

Merkel and Trump have never had a good relationship, with the president criticizing her handling of migration and asylum policy, as well as denouncing the NordStream 2 gas pipeline project.

Germany, in turn, has pushed back harder than nearly any other NATO ally against Trump’s criticism over military spending, noting that allies were all working toward previously agreed-upon spending goals and also stressing that contributions to NATO could be counted in other ways, particularly in terms of operational support. And Merkel has made little secret of her disdain for Trump’s disruptive approach to world politics.

Despite of previous threats, the news of the drawdown appeared to catch Berlin by surprise. Norbert Röttgen, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the Bundestag and a contender to succeed Merkel as chancellor, criticized the action on Saturday by calling U.S. forces in Germany “crucial  and saying a reduction would be deplorable.”

Röttgen tweeted ,”Cannot see any objective reason for this”.

Pic Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Angela_Merkel_Donald_Trump_2017-03-17.png

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