The Pentagon announced Wednesday the withdrawal of almost 12,000 soldiers deployed in Germany. US President Donald Trump threatened in June with the measure as pressure on Berlin to increase its contribution to NATO. “They are delinquent,” he insisted this morning. Defense Secretary Mark Esper specified that 6,400 soldiers will return to the United States, and 5,400 will be relocated to allied countries such as Poland. The F-16 fighter squadron from the Spangdahlem base (west) will go to Italy to reinforce the presence near the Black Sea. The headquarters of the United States Forces in Europe (Eucom) will move from Stuttgart to Belgium.

“We can see the beginning of some movements in a few weeks,” said Esper in an appearance. Until now, the United States had about 36,000 military permanently settled in Germany. When Trump issued the warning to Berlin by announcing the future withdrawal of the contingent in June, he argued that the measure would affect nearly 10,000 soldiers. But the cut has been even more drastic, at almost a third, and only about 24,000 will remain on German soil.

The Pentagon chief claimed that the change of the fighters to Italy will give the US “a more lasting presence to enhance deterrence and reassure allies along the southeastern flank of NATO near the Black Sea.” Some of the soldiers will surely go to Poland and the Baltic countries, he added. “Poland is one of the few countries that is meeting its obligations [de gasto de defensa en el marco de la OTAN]. They have asked us to send troops there, and we will probably move them from Germany to Poland, ”the president had previously announced.

Other military personnel will be based in the United States, but will rotate to European territories for temporary deployments without their families. When Trump warned of a future troop departure, European NATO allies attempted to dissuade Washington from that move, or to at least relocate them to the continent. The presence of the US military on European soil “is at the core of the transatlantic alliance,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Trump’s decision, which “will cost several billion dollars,” Esper said, is a measure of pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, which Washington blames for failing to meet NATO’s defense spending target. – 2% of GDP vs. 1.38% spent by Berlin – while taking advantage of its trade relationship with the US “They have taken advantage of us for many years,” Trump told reporters at the White House before traveling. to Texas. “We are reducing forces because they are not paying their bills. It’s very simple. They are delinquent. Very simple ”, he added.

Esper addressed the matter in other terms. Although he assured that “Germany is the richest country in Europe” and that “it can and should pay more in its defense”, the head of the Pentagon reinforced the idea that the operation has been designed to “strengthen NATO” and ” deter Russia ”, rather than as retaliation against Berlin for its Defense budget. In addition, he argued, the movement will allow the military to reorganize for a “new era of great power competition.”

Rachel Rizzo, a member of the Truman National Security Project, a Washington-based organization, said in a statement that while it is “advisable” to continually review the number of US troops deployed abroad, “this movement is clearly nothing more than a movement. punitive towards Germany from which it is difficult, if not impossible, to see any benefit ”. She also pointed out that the operation will only increase tensions, at a time when “transatlantic relations” are at the lowest level “in decades”.

Presidential ministers from four German states that host American troops earlier this month sent a letter to more than a dozen U.S. congressmen to urge Trump to abandon the idea of ​​reducing troop presence, according to the Associated Press. In addition, the president’s decision has been criticized by the Democratic Party, but also within the Republican ranks. Senator Mitt Romney, a former presidential candidate in 2012, called Trump’s plan “a gift to Russia.” “Russia’s threats have not diminished, and we believe signs of a weakening commitment to NATO will encourage further aggression and Russian opportunism,” said Republican Congressman Mac Thornberry in a letter to the president.

The Pentagon emphasized that only a relatively small number of troops will move soon. The rest will take years to implement, in part due to the high cost of the operation. The announcement comes within 100 days of the US presidential election, and if Democrat Joe Biden is elected, he will “review the decision” to withdraw troops from Germany, an adviser to the former vice president of the era told Reuters. Obama.

A decision that “weakens” NATO

Germany regretted the American move. Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee of the German Parliament (and candidate in the CDU race for the succession of Angela Merkel), said that Washington is achieving “exactly the opposite” of what it claims to claim. “Instead of strengthening NATO, it is going to weaken the Alliance,” he tweeted. America’s military influence “will not increase, but will decrease.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein called the departure of troops from Germany “worrying”, “the cornerstone” of Washington’s relationship with its European and NATO allies. Röttgen celebrated the veteran senator’s position and encouraged congressmen, Democrats and Republicans, to oppose it.

Berlin argues that defense spending has increased significantly in recent years and that it will reach the 2% target in 2031.

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