A brief explanation to journalists about the withdrawal, announced by Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday morning, misrepresented how NATO works and contradicted his own military officials by asking what strategy, if any, led to the decision.
Utah Republican old Mitt Romney described Trump’s move as a “gift to Russia” and a “scratch on the face of a friend and ally.” Romney added that “the consequences will be long-lasting and will harm American interests.”
Mac Thornberry, a Republican spokesman for the Republican Armed Services Committee, said the aspects of the relocation, including the U.S. staff ceiling in Germany, were “worrying.”;
Rachel Rizzo, program director for the Truman National Security Project, which specializes in European security, said: “It’s hard, if not impossible, to see any benefits.”
The former U.S. Army Commander-in-Chief, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, said on Twitter that he was “troubled by this decision and explanation. It has no strategic advantage and is in fact ineffective in showing strength in Europe. . “
And retired U.S. Navy administrator Jim Stravidis, a former commander-in-chief in Europe and NATO, said on Twitter that “the sudden withdrawal of 12,500 troops from Germany (to send half of them to countries that spend little on defense) does not hurt NATO. solidarity and is a gift [Russian President Vladimir] Viburnum “.
The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany distracts them from a central location with a complex transportation and logistics network that accelerates the movement of troops and equipment in Europe and beyond, creating a powerful counterweight to Russia, analysts say.
Reducing the American footprint in Germany could waste billions of money spent on the recent upgrade of U.S. military facilities there, and billions more may need to be spent to replicate those resources elsewhere. Among other issues, military analysts also say that replacing a permanent army with a rotating force could make training with host countries more complex and create moral problems.
Trump himself seemed to have emphasized this thoughtful Wednesday, saying the reduction in troops was due to Berlin’s failure to meet defense spending targets, not to the strategic reasons that Esper outlined when he announced the move, which included fighting the Moscow.
Last Friday, the president spoke to Putin for the last time, the latest in a series of phone calls that CNN Marshal Cohen described as the longest publicly available period of contact between the two leaders. In an interview released Wednesday, Axios told Axios that during that conversation he did not raise U.S. intelligence on suspicion that Moscow had offered contributions to Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
It is unclear whether the two leaders discussed Trump’s plan to reduce the U.S. military presence in Germany meant it was a spell against possible Russian aggression. But after Esper announced the withdrawal of the army, Senator Foreign Relations Committee Democrat Sender Robert Menendez of New Jersey said “champagne must flow freely in the Kremlin tonight.”
Esper explained that the current plan is to relocate about 11,900 troops from Germany, reducing the number from about 36,000 to 24,000. A senior U.S. defense official said the 5,400 troops leaving Germany would “stay in Europe.” The remaining 6,400 troops and their families will be returned to the United States and redeployed to Europe over time.
Although Esperi said the move was intended to help deter Russia, the U.S. military did not appear to be constantly relocating to countries closest to NATO’s eastern border with Russia, despite those countries’ long requests for such forces.
In Italy and Belgium
One of those countries, the President of Lithuania, told Twitter: “We are ready to receive more US troops.”
However, most of the troops left permanently in Europe will be transferred to Italy or Belgium rather than sent to the countries most concerned about the Russian threat.
“There are or may be other possibilities to move additional forces to Poland and the Baltics,” Esper said, not offering much to note.
The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany deprives them of what Jeff Rathke, president of the Institute of American Modern Studies at Johns Hopkins University, calls “the best place they can operate. The German logistics network that the US has access to is very complex – aerodromes and bases, a rail network that allows the US to move equipment. ”
Germany is also “a central place from which the United States can relocate,” Rathke said. Rathke, noting the combination of the German area as well as its transportation and logistics, said: “You can’t replicate this elsewhere. They don’t exist in Poland or the Far East.”
Mr Menendez said in a statement that Germany not only “strengthens its presence in Eastern Europe in its efforts to fight Russia”, but also “takes into account US security interests in the Middle East and Africa.”
“This platform is not easily replicated anywhere else,” Menendez said.
The question also arises as to how much this will cost American taxpayers in setting a record U.S. budget deficit. The military action could potentially cost “several billion dollars,” Esper said on Wednesday.
According to Hertling, the Pentagon will move away from the billions spent between 2004 and 2011. Modernization to protect and consolidate key U.S. military sites will only require the replication of facilities such as housing, schools, headquarters, and barracks in new locations.
Rathke stresses that returning soldiers to the U.S. also comes at a cost. “If you are going to return people from Germany, where you are going to accommodate them and whether there was a budget for that, would it be housing or basic infrastructure for these people returning from Europe?”
NATO said in a statement that the report “underlines the continued commitment of the United States to NATO and European security.”
However, Hertling said that “what is obvious to me – having served in Germany for 12 years and participating in the last change in the force structure in 2004-2011, is not a” strategic “step”. Instead, he said, “it destroys and affects preparation … especially when it’s all happening without a previous plan.”
“Punishment of Merkel”
In addition, Hertling was among many who argued that the president’s decision was to “punish Merkel” and “is a personal insult directed by Trump specifically against our great and very supportive ally, Germany.”
Agathe Demarais, director of global forecasting at The Economist Intelligence Unit, said the move was part of a broader history of disintegration in U.S.-Germany relations “due in part to mutual hostility between the two countries’ political leaders.” Merkel and Trump “are different actors and haven’t been able to build any kind of relationship since Trump came to power in 2016.”
The Germans themselves pointed out that by relocating the U.S. military, the Trump administration appears to be working against some of its stated goals.
“By withdrawing 12,000 troops from Germany, the United States is doing the exact opposite of what Esper said,” Norbert Roettgen, the head of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee and Merkel’s extraordinary ally, said on Twitter. “Instead of strengthening #NATO, it will weaken the alliance,” Roettgen said. “U.S. military influence will not increase, but will decrease with respect to Russia and the Middle East.”
In Bavaria, which has several U.S. bases, the state governor, who belongs to the Merkel Conservative bloc, said: “We deeply regret the decision of the US government.”
“Unfortunately, this is seriously damaging German-American relations,” Markus Soeder said. “No military benefits can be seen. This weakens NATO and the US itself.”
CNN’s Fred Pleitgen in Berlin contributed to this report.