- A senior ally of Merkel attacks Trump’s decision to withdraw nearly 12,000 troops from Germany.
- US Defence Secretary Mark Esper set out details of the plan on Wednesday, with President Trump once again venting his frustration with “delinquent” Germany.
- Esper said the plan would “strengthen NATO and improve operational efficiency.”
- However, Norbert Roettgen, chair of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said the move would reduce US “military clout” and “achieve the exact opposite” of what Trump wants to achieve.
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A key ally of Angela Merkel has attacked Donald Trump’s decision to remove nearly 12,000 troops from Germany, saying that it will reduce the US’ “military clout” and “weaken” NATO in its efforts to contain Russia.
The Trump administration on Wednesday set out details of its plan to remove 11,900 troops from Germany “within weeks” amid ongoing tension between Chancellor Merkel and President Trump.
Trump vented his frustration with “delinquent” Germany at the press conference yesterday for not planning to hit the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on national defence by 2024.
“We don’t want to be the suckers anymore,” Trump said on Wednesday. “We’re protecting Germany, so we’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills. It’s very simple. They’re delinquent.”
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said the move supported US strategic goals and would “strengthen NATO and improve operational efficiency.”
Around half of the US troops being withdrawn from Germany will be relocated across Europe, Esper said, with some going to Italy and countries in The Black Sea region. Some troops could be sent to Poland and Baltics, he added.
The rest will return to the US, at least temporarily, Esper said.
However, senior German politician Norbert Roettgen, who is standing to succeed his ally Angela Merkel as Chancellor, rebuked the move, saying it would “achieve the exact opposite” of Esper’s aims.
Roettgen, a former minister in Merkel’s government who now chairs the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, tweeted: “In withdrawing 12.000 soldiers from #Germany, the #USA achieve the exact opposite from what #Esper outlined. Instead of strengthening #NATO it is going to weaken the alliance. The US’ military clout will not increase, but derease [sic] in relation to #Russia and the Near & Middle East.”
Germany ‘no longer feels it can rely on the US’
Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Germany is the latest flashpoint in his strained relationship with Merkel.
Andreas Michaelis, Germany’s ambassador to the UK, recently told Business Insider that “shortcomings” in Germany’s relationship with the US meant that working with the Trump administration is now “not easy.”
“With all the shortcomings in terms of information policy, and things being decided without consultation, this untidiness that has crept into the relationship is something that worries us,” he said.
Merkel’s government reacted furiously to the decision to withdraw troops when it was revealed earlier in the summer.
Johann Wadephul, a senior figure in Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, last month said: “We expect our leading ally to act as a model, with orientation and balance – not maximum pressure.
“You don’t treat partners like this.”
Peter Beyer, Germany’s Coordinator of Transatlantic Cooperation,said it was “completely unacceptable.”
In a separate row, EU officials were “furious” with the Trump administration, Bloomberg reported, after the president moved to shut Germany and the rest of the EU out of White House talks between leaders of Serbia and Kosovo. Merkel had played a leading role in trying to broker reconciliation between the two countries.
Trump also triggered outrage in Germany after reportedly seeking to obtain exclusive access to a coronavirus vaccine being developed in the country.
A report published on Wednesday by London-based think tank,the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), stated that Germany no longer believes it can expect the US’ help against the threat of Russia and China.
The report said that Germany “is on the frontline” in West’s efforts to repel interference from the Kremlin and Beijing, but “with President Donald Trump well into his fourth year as president, it no longer feels it can rely on the US to underpin its security.”