US President Donald Trump said on Monday that he is reducing the number of American troops deployed in Germany down to 25,000, accusing Berlin of being "delinquent" in its contribution to NATO.
"We're protecting Germany and they're delinquent. That doesn't make sense," Trump said at the White House. "We are going to bring down the soldier count to 25,000 soldiers," he said, adding that the deployment of troops comes at "a tremendous cost to the United States."
Germany, he said, is not meeting its commitment to spend 2% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense as required by the NATO alliance. Member nations had pledged to reach the 2% threshold by 2024. Germany has said it hopes to reach the target by 2031.
Trump has long complained that host nations have not been paying their fair share for the US troops and has repeatedly singled out Germany as a major offender. Until Berlin meets the spending target, he said, the US will reduce its deployment in the country.
He also accused Germany of treating the US "badly" on trade. "So we get hurt on trade and we get hurt on NATO," he said.
Doubts over commitment
The troop withdrawal plan raised fresh questions about Trump's commitment to longstanding cooperation agreements with European allies and the Western military alliance itself.
Earlier this month, US media reports said Trump was planning to pull some troops stationed in Germany. The reports caused alarm among some German politicians, with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas saying that the US-German relations had become "complicated" since Donald Trump became president.
The reports of troop withdrawal were, however, welcomed by Germany's Left party, which has long called for a total withdrawal of American troops from Germany.
German Ambassador to the US, Emily Haber, responded to Trump's announcement saying that the US troops were in Europe to defend trans-Atlantic security and help the US project its global power.
"US troops...are not there to defend Germany. They are there to defend the trans-Atlantic security. They are also there to project American power in Africa, in Asia," Haber said at a virtual event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.
The announcement also drew criticism from US lawmakers, including from those within Trump's own Republican party.
"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,"US Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas wrote in a letter to Trump with his colleagues.
Democrat Senator Jack Reed, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, slammed Trump's move as "anotherfavor" to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Republican Representative Liz Cheney last week warned Trump of the negative consequences of such a move. "America's forward presence has never been more important than it is today, as our nation confronts the threats to freedom and security around the world posed by Vladimir Putin's Russia and the Chinese Communist Party," Cheney said.
"Our presence abroad is critical to deterring these adversaries, bolstering alliances, maintaining peace through strength, and preserving American leadership. Withdrawing our forces and abandoning our allies would have grave consequences, emboldening our adversaries and making war more not less likely."
adi/sri (AP, dpa, Reuters)