Trump Orders Thousands Of Troops From Germany As Putin Moves His Toward Europe
President Donald Trump ordered the removal of 9,500 U.S. troops from Germany by September, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday — the same day that Russia reported moving troops west toward Europe’s borders. The move also comes just days after Trump spoke with Russian Vladimir Putin by phone.
Trump’s order also will establish a new ceiling of 25,000 troops in Germany at any given time, less than half the previous cap of 52,000 “as units rotate in and out or take part in training exercises.”
The Journal reported that “some former senior defense officials and lawmakers concerned that it would further weaken a key alliance and empower U.S. adversaries” were critical of the move.
One senior U.S. official said the order reflects the Trump administration’s long-held frustration with German policy, particularly “the nation’s level of military spending and its insistence on completing the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will channel Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea.”
Germany is home to “an array of important American military bases are located there,” The Journal noted, including “major military training ranges at Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels, as well as the headquarters for the U.S. Air Force and Army forces in Europe.”
Critics also accused Trump of “hamstringing his own military strategy,” considering that the Pentagon’s defense strategy adopted in 2018 “calls for stepping up efforts to deter possible Russian and Chinese aggression.”
At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin is moving his own troops closer to Europe’s borders, as reported by Newsweek last week.
Russia’s “Western Military District press service said Friday that the Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Sevastopol Red Banner Brigade was deployed to Moscow's Novomoskovsky Administrative District.”
There it will join “the Guards Red Banner Tank Army 'to perform tasks on ensuring the defense of the Russian Federation in the Western strategic direction,'" the the state-run Tass Russian News Agency reported.
Motorized rifle units are equipped with weapons and vehicles including: the T-90A tanks, BTR-82A armored carriers, BMP-3 combat vehicles, and 9A34 Strela-10 and 2S6M Tunguska air defense systems.
Newsweek said the moves came on the heels of Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian General Staff blasting “anti-Russian” activities conducted near the Russian border by the U.S. and allied states of the 29-member NATO defense pact.
Officials in both Germany and the U.S. have criticized Trump’s move, particularly in light of Russia’s advance westward.
- A senior German defense official told The Journal that the government had heard rumors of a reduction in U.S. troops but had not yet been formally notified.
“We always knew Trump would lash out when he is under pressure domestically, but we thought he would first pull out of Afghanistan,” the official said. “This move will not help friends of the U.S. in Germany who are working hard to preserve the trans-Atlantic relationship, but it will boost the anti-American sentiment that has been spreading here.”
- Retired Army General Frederick Hodges, who previously commanded U.S. Army forces in Europe, told The Journal that the presence of American troops in Germany helped the Pentagon power in Europe and beyond.
“Russia has done nothing to lower its threat to our allies. Why would we want to reward that behavior with a reduction of our forces in Europe?” Gen. Hodges said. “Germany is the most important ally we have in Europe. This looks like punishment somehow.”
James Townsend, a former senior Pentagon official for Europe and NATO, said the move would likely have a negative impact on all U.S. allies — not just Germany.
Townsend told The Journal: “A move like this not only erodes trust with Germany but with other allies, too. Other allies will be asking, ‘Will I be next?”
Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, characterized Trump’s decision as a “favor to Putin and another leadership failure by this administration that further strains relations with our allies.”
But the president has long taken a more favorable stance toward Russia and Putin, evidenced by his decision earlier this month to invite the Russian president to the upcoming G7 summit hosted by the U.S.
According to The New York Times, Trump called Putin on June 1, at which time they reportedly discussed “the latest efforts to defeat the coronavirus pandemic and reopen global economies” and “progress toward convening the G7.”
During the call, Trump also extended Putin an invitation to the gathering.
The move comes despite disagreement from other G7 members that Russia should be welcomed back to the group.
The Times reported that “key U.S. allies reiterated that Russia was an outlaw nation that should be denied readmittance into the group of industrialized nations, whose members include the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Japan.”
Both his move to bring Russia back into the fold of the G7 and his removal of troops from Germany likely have pleased the Kremlin, with The Journal noting that “Moscow is likely to welcome the open display of differences between two key North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.”