After it was recently announced that the USA wanted to withdraw troops from Germany, the exact number of soldiers is now to be increased again by 2,000. The geopolitical consequences and implications include significant problems for NATO and the United States itself. The hope remains that President Donald Trump’s plans may still not succeed.
US Troop Withdrawal from Germany
The United States has specified its plans for withdrawing troops from Germany: almost 12,000 soldiers are to leave Germany. Six thousand four hundred of them will return to the US, while 5,400 will be relocated within Europe.
Trump ordered the number of US soldiers stationed in Germany to be reduced by 10,000 from around 35,000 to 25,000. The president justified the deduction by referring to what he considered to be insufficient defense expenditure in Germany.
Washington did not consult Berlin prior to the decision to withdraw troops. Most recently, however, it was in an exchange with the US government. The plans met with reservations in the federal government and NATO.
Can the Troop Withdrawal Still be Stopped?
However, there are currently two scenarios in which the withdrawal can still be prevented. For one, resistance in the ranks of Trump’s party remains. Republican Congressmen argue that reducing troop presence in Germany will ultimately harm US security. Congress could thus block the partial withdrawal via the military budget or at least make it significantly more difficult. A deduction will require money that Congress must approve. Should the latter not prevent the withdrawal, the fact remains that Trump is likely to lose the November election and Joe Biden would probably not pursue the plans further.
Why the Troop Reduction isn’t in America’s or NATO’s Interest
The announced reduction from almost 35,000 to 25,000 soldiers is neither in Germany’s or NATO’s security interests nor does it make any geopolitical sense for the United States. The opposition within Washington is a testimony of the latter. Not only with the Democrats, but also with the Republicans and the Pentagon. Moreover, the fact that Germany found out about the withdrawal plans from the newspaper seems like a summary of the Trumpian foreign policy: inept and uncoordinated and utterly tone-deaf regarding allies.
Officially, the removal is meant as some form of a punishment for an ally that Trump has chosen as a favorite opponent among all US allies since the beginning of his term. It is all about German military spending. “Germany has been in default for years and owes NATO billions of dollars, and they have to pay that,” Trump said in June.
German Military Spending
The president is alluding to the NATO target that each member state should spend two per cent of its gross domestic product on defense. Germany has now moved closer to this goal but is still significantly lower at 1.38 per cent. There is nothing to gloss over here. Germany’s defense spending is unacceptable. A country with Germany’s status and the economic power it possesses ought to be capable of producing a feasible defense budget.
Unfortunately, the latter remains incompatible with most parties in Germany. Angela Merkel’s CDU is therefore not to be blamed for the situation entirely. Her coalition partner, the SPD, in particular, sees an increase in the defense budget as a return to darker German times in brown shirts.
Post-Cold War Security Guarantee
The US troops were a security guarantee for Germany during the Cold War. The stationing of troops is still an essential link between the two countries. On the one hand, there is the interpersonal aspect: over the decades, thousands of friendships, partnerships and marriages have developed between Germans and Americans.
For the regions around the US bases, there is also the economic aspect. In the Rhineland-Palatinate alone, more than 7,000 German local forces are employed by the US armed forces, and there are said to be 12,000 throughout Germany. In addition, many thousands more workers are attached to the US troops, especially in Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. The US Air Force Base Ramstein alone is estimated to generate $ 2 billion in wages, salaries, rents, and orders in the regional economy each year.
The withdrawal is also a false signal towards Russia and its aggressive plans. The planned removal now is a continuation of a Trump doctrine that has been redefining the roles of allies and adversaries for three and a half years — fatal consequences included.