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Germany's top diplomat laments decline of US ties

June 7, 2020

While other politicians have slammed a rumored 9,500 US-troop exit from Germany, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says Berlin will simply "take note of" Donald Trump's plan. He admitted that US-German ties were "complicated."

The entrance to the US Ramstein Air Base
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J.-C. Verhaegen

Germany's top diplomat Heiko Maas on Sunday gave a muted response to days of speculation that US President Donald Trump might slash US troop stationing in Germany from 34,500, capping it at 25,000 in the future.

"Should it come to the withdrawal of some of the US troops, we take note of this," Maas told Germany's Bild am Sonntag (BamS) newspaper.

And, Foreign Minister Maas exclaimed that decades of "close" US-German partnership post-war had become "complicated" since Trump became president.

Cooperation with US armed forces had been in the "interest of both of our countries," said Maas.

On Friday the Wall Street Journal had reported that Trump had ordered the Pentagon to slash US troop numbers in Germany by 9,500.

Read more: German conservatives slam reported US troop withdrawal

Thousands to leave this year?

The German news magazine Der Spiegel put the intended withdrawal at between 5,000 and 15,000 by late this year.

"This would break transatlantic bridges," exclaimed Peter Beyer, coordinator for transatlantic relations for the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"It's not just about 9,500 soldiers, but also their families, an estimated 20,000 Americans," Beyer told Germany's main news agency DPA.

Protests in the US

US troops, mainly across the southern half of Germany, are also supported by an estimated 17,000 US civilian employees.

US nuclear warheads are also reputedly bunkered at a German military air force base at Büchel in the western Eifel region — a Cold War leftover.

Rolf Mützenich, chairman of the center-left Social Democrats' parliamentary group in the Bundestag, said the rumored US plan could lead to a "lasting realignment of security policy in Europe."

"The strategic planning of the United States is shifting to Asia," Mützenich told the Funke Media Group of newspapers.

"Embedding German security policy in a European environment is even more urgent and meaningful, although the challenges are greater than a few years ago," he added, referring to the reputed US part-withdrawal.

Read more: Germany: SPD call to withdraw US nuclear arms stokes debate

'Electioneering' by Trump

Opposition Greens veteran politician Jürgen Trittin accused Trump of having floated the withdrawal plan to sway the upcoming US presidential election.

".. this should come as no surprise to anyone on this side of the Atlantic," Trittin said, "but it should be deeply disturbing."

Richard Grenell, a Trump ally, who last month left as US ambassador to Germany, had last year threatened a troop withdrawal, warning Germany to spend more on its military within NATO instead of its [budget] "surplus on domestic programs."

He also accused Berlin of undermining NATO's nuclear deterrent after some SPD figures, Mützenich included, called for nuclear disarmament.

On Saturday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he hoped some of the US troops moved out of Germany would be reassigned to Poland.

ipj/mm (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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