The partial withdrawal of US forces from Germany requested by US President Donald Trump (73) has now been decided. Trump agreed to a proposal to withdraw 9,500 of the approximately 34,500 soldiers currently in Germany, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry said on Tuesday (local time). Minister Mark Esper and Chief of Staff Mark Milley therefore discussed the plans with Trump in the White House on Monday. A schedule for the probably lengthy withdrawal was initially not given.
The Pentagon will inform Congress in the coming weeks, and then NATO partners, the ministry spokesman said. The US Congress could block the partial withdrawal desired by Trump through the military budget, or at least make it significantly more difficult. Trump is also applying for a second term in November. If he lost the election, the new president could put the plans on hold.
In Congress, opposition to the partial withdrawal has already been formed among Trumps Republicans and Democrats. The plan is viewed particularly critically there because it could weaken the NATO alliance and play Russia in the hands. There are therefore plans in the Senate and in the House of Representatives to prevent partial withdrawal via the Military Budget Act. The Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman, on the other hand, said the partial withdrawal would strengthen NATO, the deterrence of Russia and the “strategic flexibility” of the US armed forces in Europe. With the partial withdrawal, Trump wants to punish Germany for what he believes to be insufficient defense expenditure. Some of the soldiers withdrawn from Germany should then strengthen the units in Poland, as Trump said last week.
The federal government in Berlin was not consulted by Washington before the decision was taken to withdraw troops, but has so far only been informed roughly. She pointed out that moving troops eastwards could increase tensions with Russia.
Serious economic consequences
During the Cold War, 250,000 US soldiers were stationed in West Germany to defy the Soviet Union. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was a radical reduction: in 2000 there were only 70,000 US soldiers, ten years later 48,000, today there are just under 35,000 left. This makes Germany the second most important US troop location worldwide after Japan.
A withdrawal of 10,000 soldiers would have serious economic consequences for the regions affected. 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.
Some of the locations in Germany are of central importance for US troops beyond Europe. Ramstein Air Force Base is the hub through which the United States brings troops and supplies to their areas of operations in the Middle East or Africa. In the nearby Landstuhl is the largest US military hospital outside the United States, one of the largest military training areas in Europe in Grafenwoehr in Bavaria and the command centers for US troops in Europe and Africa in Stuttgart. (SDA)