President Donald Trump’s decision to cut the number of U.S. troops in Germany has irked Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and German media.

The White House plans to withdraw 9,500 out of 35,000 U.S. troops stationed in Germany by September, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The move came after Germany ignored President Trump’s repeated warnings and kept defaulting on the agreed defense spending, leaving the U.S. to pick up the hefty NATO bill.

“The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable,” President Trump said at the 2018 NATO summit. The U.S. shoulders more than 70 percent of the NATO defense budget.

Peter Beyer, a German politician and a key Merkel ally, called the planned U.S. troop withdrawal “completely unacceptable” to Germany. “It’s not just about 9,500 soldiers, but also their families, an estimated 20,000 Americans,” he added.

Nils Schmid, a spokesman for Germany’s ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD), Merkel’s coalition partner, decried the move calling U.S. president “a hopeless case.” Merkel’s Christian Conservative party (CDU) also slammed the decision.

“Trump’s planned withdrawal of U.S. troops causes distress,” German business daily Handelsblatt reported. German weekly Der Spiegel ran an editorial critical of the U.S. president titled “The Alliance Breaker in the White House.”

The news agency Reuters reported the official German response:

Germany’s coordinator for transatlantic ties has criticised U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw thousands of troops from Germany. (…)

“This is completely unacceptable, especially since nobody in Washington thought about informing its NATO ally Germany in advance,” Peter Beyer, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

Following Trump’s decision, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a newspaper interview that he regretted the planned withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Germany, describing Berlin’s relationship with the United States as “complicated”.

Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper also covered the domestic political reaction:

The CDU and CSU parties [the Merkel-led ‘Christian Conservative’ alliance] criticized Trump’s idea. Johann Wadephul, the deputy chairman of the CDU-CSU parliamentary caucus spoke of a “further wake-up call for the Europeans” to take their destiny more decisively into their hands. (…)

Trump is “a hopeless case,” said Nils Schmid, the foreign affairs spokesperson of Social Democratic Party [Merkel’s coalition partner]. “A cooperative partnership is apparently impossible and not desired by him.” The plan will be in its execution “regrettable and above all hurt the military capabilities of the United States.” The security of Germany and the European NATO partners will also be impacted. [Translated by the author]

The U.S. mainstream media also chimed in.

“Trump chooses a senseless withdrawal from Germany. He threatens national security,” The Washington Post lamented.

The New York Times quoted unnamed “analysts,” saying the “move had a whiff of politics and even personal resentment.” The NYT explained that “Mr. Trump and his allies have long singled out Germany as what they call an egregious free rider on America’s military might. Instead of spending to defend itself and Europe, Mr. Trump has argued, Germany instead built itself a lavish social welfare system.”

Germany, under Merkel’s 14-year rule, has shown little inclination to fulfill its NATO spending pledge.

“It is true that Germany will not meet the NATO threshold, agreed in 2014, of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense by 2024,” German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle admitted following the U.S. announcement.

The out-going U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, had repeatedly reminded Berlin to meets its defense spending obligation.

“It is offensive to assume that the U.S. taxpayers continue to pay for more than 50,000 Americans in Germany but the Germans get to spend their surplus on domestic programs,” he told German media in August.

The planned withdrawal will impact German communities around the U.S. bases, Deutsche Welle reported. The move “could have big economic consequences for the small towns where they have been based for nearly 70 years,” the public broadcaster noted. “Small towns in the south of Germany such as Grafenwöhr in Bavaria or Ramstein in Rhineland-Palatinate have developed since World War II on the basis of the presence of thousands of US troops, their families and US civilians working at bases there.”

Poland was first to welcome the move. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that he “deeply” hoped that some of the troops moving out of Germany would be transferred to his country, the German media reported on Monday.

(Cover image via YouTube; Excerpts from the German media translated by the author)


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