- US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper confirmed that the United States was reducing its 11,900 troops in Germany.
- President Trump has often criticized European allies for not spending significantly on defense.
- The move was criticized by German and American political leaders.
The United States has announced that it will withdraw 6,400 troops from Germany and relocate 5,400 to other European countries, reducing the number of US troops in Germany by about a third. The move is the largest troop transfer in Germany since the end of the Cold War and could begin next week.
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper confirmed that the United States was reducing its 11,900 troops in Germany, withdrawing some of them and relocating others to other European countries. Earlier this month, the Pentagon said President Donald Trump had approved a plan to withdraw 9,500 troops from Germany.
On Wednesday, however, Secretary Esper announced a clear number, saying 11,900 troops were being withdrawn from Germany. According to the US Department of Defense, only about 25,000 US troops will remain in Germany.
Secretary Esper said 5,400 of the US troops being withdrawn from Germany would be stationed in Italy and Belgium, but said if Warsaw agreed, some could be deployed in Poland and the Baltic states. Talks are underway with Poland in this regard. The Secretary of Defense said the new deployment was part of a broader plan to review US strategy against Russia.
“It’ll be a service responsibility to determine where they should go to enhance their readiness to make sure we have adequate housing and childcare and hospital care and all that for families,” said Secretary Esper.
The Secretary of Defense added that the move could have significant economic and strategic implications for Germany, where hundreds of US troops have been stationed since the end of World War II.
“Germany Should Spend More”
Secretary Esper did not specify whether the troop decision was the result of President Trump’s comments on Germany. Trump has often criticized European allies for not spending significantly on defense and for being “tolerant” in fulfilling their financial obligations to NATO.
“Germany is delinquent; they’re at one percent, not two percent,” he told reporters outside the White House on Wednesday. “They’ve taken advantage of us for many years.” Trump added he may rethink the decision “if they start paying their bills.”
Secretary Esper also echoed President Trump’s statement, saying that Germany was a “rich country,” and should spend more on its defense. The German government says it plans to spend 13.7% of its GDP on defense in 2020.
“Burden” on Bilateral Relations
Retired US General Ben Hodges, meanwhile, told reporters that the decision to relocate US troops was fundamentally wrong. “America’s most important ally in Europe is Germany. And the withdrawal of US troops would be a “gift to the Kremlin.” It would reduce US capacity in Europe without taking action against Russian aggression.
Bavarian Minister-President Markus Söder also criticized the US plan to withdraw troops, saying it would not serve a clear military purpose, and would weaken the NATO alliance and the United States itself.
“Unfortunately, this is German,” said Söder. “It will be a burden on US relations,” he said. “We will see how long this decision lasts,” referring to the US presidential election in November.
The leaders of four German states are thought to have called on the US Congress to halt troop reductions, warning that it could weaken the Atlantic alliance against Moscow. In addition, several members of President Trump’s own party also criticized the decision to withdraw troops from Germany.