The US will be pulling almost 12,000 troops from Germany, with a bit more than half of them—6,400—set to return stateside. The announcement came Wednesday from Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who said the remaining 5,600 troops withdrawing from Germany will be spread elsewhere throughout Europe, including in Belgium and Italy. Some will move east to "strengthen NATO [and] enhance the deterrence of Russia," he added, per the Financial Times; critics have said it will do the opposite in terms of Russia. The relocation of select Army and Air Force units will start "within weeks," per Esper. The New York Times reports that will bring troop levels in Germany from about 36,000 to 24,000, which slides in under what President Trump in June said would be a cap of 25,000 troops in the country. More:
- When the reduction was first announced in June, the Pentagon said 9,500 troops would leave Germany. CNN cites officials who say the uptick came following a review that established the count of troops permanently assigned to Germany.
- Bloomberg writes that President Trump was meanwhile "undercutting" the case made by Esper, suggesting to reporters on Wednesday the move was "largely about punishing Germany as a defense deadbeat," as Bloomberg puts it. "They’ve taken advantage of us for many years," Trump said in reference to Germany's defense spending, which in 2019 was 1.3% of GDP; Trump says Germany isn't being aggressive enough in its commitment to raise that to 2%. “We don't want to be the suckers anymore,” he continued, per Politico. "So we're reducing the force because they're not paying their bills. It's very simple, they're delinquent."
- What Esper had to say on that front Wednesday, per Bloomberg: "Let's be clear, I think Germany is the wealthiest country in Europe. Germany can and should pay more to its defense."
- On the financial front, CNN reports the Pentagon's redeployment is expected to cost several billion dollars due to the need to construct new troop housing in the US and Europe.
- The New York Times predicts the announcement will "rankle European leaders and anger lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who see the American troop presence on the continent, especially in Germany, as a cornerstone of post-World War II order."
- That quickly came to pass as far as Germany goes, with Politico quipping that German officials "immediately trashed the plan."
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