The American newspaper The Wall Street Journal announced Friday that the United States is planning to reduce its military presence in Germany. If the White House and the Pentagon have not confirmed this information, these disclosures in Germany worry about the maintenance of European security.
Concerns are emerging in Germany after information in the press was revealed about an orderly reduction of the US military deployed in the country.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Sunday that close cooperation is in the interests of both countries. Other politicians in Berlin have been more direct, citing a blow to German-American relations and a potential security risk.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing anonymous government sources in Washington President Trump ordered the Pentagon to reduce the number of US soldiers stationed in Germany to 25,000, a decrease of 9,500 men.
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Currently, approximately 34,500 soldiers live with their families at one of the 21 US military bases in Germany. The workforce can reach 52,000 people during team rotations or during maneuvers.
Consequences at European level
Such a decision, which seems to have surprised Berlin, would be equivalent to significantly reducing US involvement in NATO’s European defense.
“If this would lead to the withdrawal of some of the American soldiers, we note,” Heiko Maas told Bild am Sonntag. “We appreciate the cooperation with the US Armed Forces (which) is in the best interests of our two countries.”
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However, Heiko Maas acknowledged that ties had weakened during Trump’s presidency. “We are close partners in the Transatlantic Alliance. But it’s complicated,” he told Bild, referring to issues of friction such as the nuclear deal with Iran, support from Berlin to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany or contributions to NATO.
No confirmation from the US government
The White House and the Pentagon have refused to confirm or deny information from the Wall Street Journal and other media, which comes amid tensions between the US government and its European allies within NATO.
This reduction was also one of the plans for former US ambassador to Berlin, Richard Grenell, a follower of Donald Trump who has just resigned.
“The relationship between Germany and the United States can be seriously affected by such a decision by the US president,” warned German Transatlantic Relations Coordinator Peter Beyer quoted by the dpa agency.
A strong US presence in Germany
A reduction in US presence would be “a colossal mistake” and “a gift” to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Judge Ben Hodges, former commander of the US forces in Europe, who left in 2017.
“American soldiers are not in Europe to protect the Germans,” he tweeted, “they are on an advanced basis, as part of NATO, to protect all members, including the United States.”
Strongly agree … US troops are not in Europe to protect the Germans … they are forward, as part of NATO, to protect all members, including the United States. Europe allows the US to project power to the Middle East, Africa. BTW, US Army 35K in Europe … 1/3 of a big American football stadium. https://t.co/M3lM98P9Bp
– Ben Hodges (@general_ben) June 6, 2020
Although their numbers have declined since the Cold War, Germany is home to more American soldiers than any other European country, a legacy of the Allied occupation after the Second World War.
The US military is headquartered in Stuttgart for Europe and Africa. The American air base at Ramstein plays an important role in the transport of men and equipment to Iraq and Afghanistan. The US military hospital in Landsthul, near Ramstein, is the largest outside the United States.