On July 29, Wednesday, the US announced the withdrawal of 11,900 troops stationed in Germany and a phased shifting of its European command from the country. Though defense secretary Mark Esper insisted that the move is for the “strategic relocation” of these forces to Belgium, president Trump said it is a result of Germany’s unwillingness to pay for its own defense.
Out of the total of 11,900 troops to be withdrawn from Germany, 6,400 will go back to the US and the remaining will be redeployed to other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members in Europe, namely Belgium and Italy. Around 25,000 more US troops will remain in Germany.
The Pentagon also announced a gradual shift of its European Command (Eucom) headquarters and the African Command to Belgium from its current location in Germany. Though exact numbers are difficult to ascertain, according to various estimates, there are around 50,000 US civilian and defense personnel deployed in Germany, of which roughly 36,000 are active US soldiers.
The German government’s transatlantic coordinator, Peter Beyer, criticized the move, saying it “makes no sense” and is “not in the security interest of Germany or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.” He expressed displeasure at the fact that, “German government initially only found out about the withdrawal ideas from the newspapers,” German Press Agency (DPA) reported.
The presence of US troops in Germany is the legacy of the Second World War and the ensuing cold war between the Soviet Union and the US. Out of a total of seven US military bases in Europe, five of them are in Germany alone. These bases play an important role in US operations in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa.
The Trump administration has maintained that all NATO members should share the burden of their security and reduce dependence on the US. Commenting on the move, Trump said that “Germany is delinquent” and has “taken advantage of us for many years, so we are reducing the troops because they are not paying their bills.” He repeated the claims in a Tweet early morning on Thursday.
Germany pays Russia billions of dollars a year for Energy, and we are supposed to protect Germany from Russia. What’s that all about? Also, Germany is very delinquent in their 2% fee to NATO. We are therefore moving some troops out of Germany!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2020
NATO members had signed a deal in 2014, according to which, all members were to increase their defense budgets to a minimum 2% of their GDP. Out of the 29 NATO allies, only seven have a higher expenditure. Germany is currently spending around 1.3% of its GDP on defense. German chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to increase the country’s defense budget to the required 2% by 2031.