WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw 9,500 U.S. troops from Germany has alarmed Republican lawmakers and former defense officials who question whether there is a solid strategy behind the 30 percent reduction — even as they support Trump’s purported goal of urging Germany to spend more on its own defense.
Dozens of GOP lawmakers have come out against the announcement, publicly voicing concerns that the drawdown would embolden Russia, hamstring the defense of NATO’s eastern members, and reduce the Pentagon’s ability to flow U.S. forces through Germany to bases around the world.
Privately, they have even more pointed questions about the analysis underpinning the decision. According to a House Foreign Affairs Committee aide, top Republican Rep. Mike McCaul’s “primary concern that it’s going to hurt U.S. strategic interests more than it’s going to punish Germany.”
Right now, roughly 34,000 U.S. troops are permanently stationed in Germany, including at the headquarters for U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Europe Command in Stuttgart. The bulk of the force is there to be quickly marshaled to vulnerable eastern-flank nations if Russia attacks.
Cutting those troops, critics say, raises the risk to those countries, but probably won’t hurt Germany, which is much farther from the Russian border and is no longer seen as the “front line” of a potential conflict.
Trump, in announcing the cut, said he was penalizing Berlin for being “delinquent” in its defense spending.
”So we’re protecting Germany and they’re delinquent. That doesn’t make sense,” the president told White House reporters on June 15. “So I said, we’re going to bring down the count to 25,000 soldiers.”