Donald Trump says the US will withdraw thousands of troops from Germany, reducing its military presence in the country by roughly a third, after he accused German officials of being “delinquent” in its Nato payments.
The president told reporters on Monday that the US is “protecting Germany and they’re delinquent, that doesn’t make sense”.
In 2014, Nato members had supported spending 2 per cent of their gross national product on military by 2024. Germany had expected to reach that target by 2031.
Mr Trump claimed that Germany is “delinquent for billions of dollars” and said he was reducing the US military presence to roughly 25,000 service members as retaliation “until they pay”.
The country houses roughly 34,000 troops, a figure that has declined significantly following the peak of the Cold War, as Germany served as a key point for the US and Nato allies between the USSR and the rest of Europe. There also are thousands of civilian staff members with the US Department of Defence.
Germany has since stationed thousands of troops as a staging area for Middle East deployment.
Germany doesn’t owe the US, or Nato, as members’ pledge to spend 2 per cent of their GDP is not contingent on other countries’ support
Following the president’s comments, German Ambassador Emily Haber said US troops are in Europe to defend transatlantic security and to project US power abroad, according to Reuters.
“Our cooperation on military and security matters has always been very close and will remain so,” Ms Haber said during an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, Reuters reported. “US troops ... are not there to defend Germany. They are there to defend the transatlantic security. ... They are also there to project American power in Africa, in Asia.”
Mr Trump’s remarks suggest that the troop drawdown is a form of sanction against the country, saying that the troops are “well-paid soldiers” who “spend vast amounts” of money while living there.
The move, which has not been approved by lawmakers or discussed with Nato or Germany officials, has faced criticism from several prominent Republicans, allies of the president, who have written a letter demanding the president reverse his decision fearing that a slimmer military presence in Europe could encourage “Russian aggression and opportunism”.
In a letter to the president, 22 Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee called the move ”another favour” to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
National security adviser Robert O’Brien had signed off on the drawdown last week, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the move.
A US official told the outlet that the decision had been in the works since September.
In their letter, the Republicans wrote that “we strongly believe that Nato allies, such as Germany, should do more to contribute to our joint defence efforts ... At the same time, we also know that the forward stationing of American troops since the end of World War II has helped to prevent another world war and, most importantly, has helped make America safer.”
Four Republican members of the committee – Mo Brooks, Scott DesJarlais, Ralph Abraham and Matt Gaetz – did not sign the letter.
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