Donald Trump confirmed on Monday June 15, 2020 that he wanted to significantly reduce the number of American soldiers stationed in Germany, appearing to use European security as a lever in his trade negotiations with Berlin. The tenant of the White House assured the press that 52,000 GIs were currently stationed in Germany, the main anchor of American NATO forces. “It is a huge cost to the United States,” he added. “So we will reduce the number, we will bring it to 25,000.”
The number of soldiers permanently deployed to Germany was in fact only 34,674 in March 2020, according to official Pentagon figures. But this figure can exceptionally rise to 52,000 during rotations or military exercises. The American bases in Germany serve in fact as a stopover for the forces deployed in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, which can temporarily increase the numbers.
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The first information on this project of the Trump administration had caused concern in Berlin when it was published by the Wall street journal at the beginning of the month. The figure announced on Monday by Donald Trump actually corresponds to estimates by the newspaper, which suggested a reduction of 9,500 soldiers to bring their number to 25,000. Even if the military strength has decreased since the Cold War, Germany is hosting more than American soldiers than any other European country, a legacy of the Allied occupation after World War II.
The resurgence of Russia’s military ambitions under the presidency of Vladimir Putin has given the American presence a new importance, but Donald Trump justified his decision by the fact that Germany does not contribute enough to the NATO budget . “Germany has arrears, they have been in arrears for years and they owe billions of dollars to NATO, and they have to pay,” he said. “We are protecting Germany and they have arrears, it’s ridiculous.”
In addition, the American president reproached the first economic power of the European Union for “treating the United States very badly” in commercial matters. “We are negotiating with them on this, but I am not happy with the agreement they are proposing,” he said. “They have cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars over the years in trade, so it hurts us in trade and it hurts us in NATO.”
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” They profit “
He accused Germany of profiting from the American military presence. “They are well paid soldiers. They live in Germany, they spend tons of money in Germany, “he said. “All around these bases, it is very rich. Germany benefits. “
The US Congress has expressed concern that such a downsizing signals a lower American commitment to European defense within the framework of NATO. The move “will further encourage Russia’s aggressiveness and expediency,” 22 Republican MPs said in an open letter last week. “We are convinced that NATO allies, Germany for example, should contribute more to our common defense efforts,” said the elected members of the Armed Forces commission of the House of Representatives. “At the same time, we also know that the advanced stationing of American forces since the end of the Second World War helped to prevent another world war and, above all, strengthened the security of the United States,” they added.
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Donald Trump’s relationship with Angela Merkel, which has never been famous, has been somewhat strained since the German Chancellor declined the American President’s invitation to participate in person at a G7 summit in June, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Republican billionaire, who has his eye on the presidential election of November 3, wanted to put his world leadership forward with a G7 summit in Washington. After Angela Merkel’s refusal, he postponed the summit, announcing his intention to invite Russia.