The Pentagon announced a long-anticipated plan to reposition and withdraw about one-third of the American troops in Germany. The military is saying the move is part of a long-term plan to restructure American forces to meet the threat of China and Russia in the Middle East.
But all the reporters wanted to know is if Donald Trump did it to “punish” Germany for not paying enough to keep our servicemen and women there.
Top defense leaders said the plan, which would bring 6,400 service members home and reposition nearly 5,600 to other countries in Europe, is part of the Pentagon’s broader effort to redistribute U.S. forces across the world to better compete with new threats from Russia and China. The move will leave 24,000 troops in Germany, where the United States has stationed a significant number of forces since the end of the Cold War.
The move out of Germany will cost billions of dollars over the next few years. But the president told reporters he was doing it to “punish” Germany.
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Esper noted that the review of European Command was accelerated by the president’s June decision to withdraw forces from Germany, which blindsided allies both at home and abroad and was seen as a rebuke of German leaders and beneficial to Russia. Trump has tied the reduction to Berlin’s failure to meet the non-binding NATO goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense.
“They’re there to protect Europe. They’re there to protect Germany, right? And Germany is supposed to pay for it. Germany’s not paying for it. We don’t want to be the suckers anymore,” Trump told reporters Wednesday morning. “So we’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills. It’s very simple, they’re delinquent.”
The idea that removing and repositioning 12,000 troops would “benefit Russia” is ludicrous. The American force in Germany wasn’t large enough to “defend” Germany in any realistic way. It was a tripwire force, designed to ensure American participation in a NATO war if Russia attacked.
If the 24,000 remaining troops in Germany embolden Russia to act, I wish them luck. They’re going to need it.
“Let’s be clear: I think Germany is the wealthiest country in Europe, Germany can and should pay more to its defense, It should certainly meet the 2 percent standard and I would argue go above and beyond that,” Esper said, noting that the plan has already received “very positive feedback” from several European countries.
That “positive feedback” is almost certainly coming from Poland and other NATO allies in Eastern Europe who have been nervously looking at Russia and Vladimir Putin’s desire to reconstitute the old Soviet empire. They will gladly pay full freight for a few thousand more Americans protecting them.
Europhiles will bemoan the end of NATO, as they’ve been doing since the Cold War ended. First Obama and now Trump have been slowly refocusing American assets and attention to the Far East, where the real threat is located. China can’t threaten Western Europe directly, but they can threaten other U.S. allies in East Asia. It’s past time for the long-awaited “pivot” to Asia for American foreign and defense policy and make Europe the sideshow it already is.