Updated: August 2, 2020 9:38:03 am
Setting off another diplomatic row and inviting fresh charges of helping Russia, United States President Donald Trump has decided to withdraw nearly 12,000 American soldiers stationed in Germany.
Why is Trump pulling out troops from Germany?
President Trump, on many occasions, has criticised the European partners of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation of not spending enough to support the alliance. Since last year, Trump has been threatening to pull out troops from Germany, accusing the latter of not committing two per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for defence. However, according to Defence Secretary Mark Esper, “The current EUCOM (United States European Command) plan will reposition military personnel from Germany, from roughly 36,000 down to 24,000, in a manner that will strengthen NATO, enhance the deterrence of Russia, and meet the other principles.…”
But why does the US have troops in Germany?
As part of NATO, also known as the North Atlantic Alliance, US troops are stationed in member states all across Europe. This is to counter any military threat to any of the alliance member. The Treaty commits each member to share the risk, responsibilities and benefits of collective defence.
What is NATO?
NATO is a multilateral organisation founded by 12 member states following the signing of the Washington Treaty on April 4, 1949. The objective of the Treaty was to create an alliance to counter the Soviet Union and its influence in western Europe. The Treaty derives its authority from Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which confers the inherent right to a nation to “individual or collective self-defence”. Currently, the alliance has 30 members, spanning over North America and Europe.
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How much funding on defence is expected from each member?
In 2006, defence ministers of NATO nations agreed to spend a minimum of two per cent of their GDP on defence. However, most member states fail to abide by this commitment. NATO’s 2019 estimates show that only nine nations, including the United Kingdom and the US, spend two per cent or more of their GDP on defence. European powerhouses such as Germany and France spend only 1.38 per cent and 1.84 per cent respectively.
Where will these troops move to?
According to the plan, while about 6,400 soldiers will be brought back to the US, the remaining 5,400 will be redeployed in Europe including in Italy and Poland. According to Defence Secretary Esper, the plan is likely to cost Pentagon billions of dollars.
What else is moving out of Germany?
Important Command Centres will also be moved out. The EUCOM as well as the Special Operations Command Europe will be shifted from Stuttgart in Germany to Mons in Belgium. According to General Tod Wolters, the commander of USCOM and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, “We also intend to reposition three brigade-size headquarters, an air defence artillery battalion, and an engineering battalion to Belgium from Germany, and two smaller support and contracting organisations to Italy.”
What has been the US reaction to the withdrawal of troops?
The decision is being opposed by members of both the Republicans and Democrats. It has been reported that at least 22 Republicans on the House Armed Service Committee have written a letter urging the President to rethink the plan. The lawmakers wrote, “In Europe, the threats posed by Russia have not lessened, and we believe that signs of a weakened US commitment to NATO will encourage further Russian aggression and opportunism.”
Following Esper’s announcement, Republican Senator Mitt Romney, a former presidential candidate, tweeted, “The Administration’s plan to remove thousands of U.S. troops from Germany is a grave error. It is a slap in the face at a friend and ally when we should instead be drawing closer in our mutual commitment to deter Russian and Chinese aggression.”
Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat in the Senate Armed Services Committee, called Trump’s move as “another favour” to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
However, defending his decision to cut troops in Germany, Trump tweeted, “Germany pays Russia billions of dollars a year for Energy, and we are supposed to protect Germany from Russia. What’s that all about?”
How has Germany reacted to the pullout?
Germany’s Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has expressed regret over Trump’s decision to pull out troops from her country.
“Regarding the regrettable plans to withdraw U.S. troops, I will, at the beginning of the parliamentary session after the summer, invite the premiers of the states affected to discuss how the Bundeswehr can support the affected regions,” she said in a statement, adding, “We’re bearing German and European interests in mind. The truth is that a good life in Germany and Europe increasingly depends on how we ensure our own security.”
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