- A new poll found a plurality of Germans supporting a reduction in the number of US troops based in Germany.
- The Trump administration last week announced plans to remove nearly 12,000 US troops from Germany “within weeks.”
- President Donald Trump said he was removing the troops because Germany didn’t spend enough money on its defence.
- Allies of Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted angrily to the move amid tension between Berlin and Washington.
- The YouGov poll, however, found more Germans supporting a reduction in troops, by 47% to 32%.
- A majority in the same poll supported the removal of US atomic bombs from Germany.
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A plurality of Germans in a new poll supported a reduction in the number of US troops based in the country, with a majority wanting to see all 20 US atomic bombs located in Germany removed as well.
The Trump administration last week announced plans to remove nearly 12,000 troops from Germany “within weeks.”
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said the move supported US strategic goals and would “strengthen NATO and improve operational efficiency.” It comes amid months of tension between Washington and Berlin and triggered angry responses from allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Peter Beyer, Germany’s coordinator of transatlantic cooperation,said it was “completely unacceptable.” Johann Wadephul, a senior figure in Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, 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.”
Speaking about the move at a press conference last week, President Donald Trump once again vented his frustration with Germany for not planning to hit the NATO spending target of 2% of its gross domestic product on national defence by 2024.
“We don’t want to be the suckers anymore,” Trump said. “We’re protecting Germany, so we’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills. It’s very simple. They’re delinquent.”
But while Trump sought to frame the removal of US troops as punishment for Germany, and while Berlin opposes the move, Germans in the new poll largely supported it, including some who would like to see further reductions of US military presence.
Forty-seven per cent of respondents said they were in favour of the number of US troops in Germany being reduced, according to the poll, conducted by YouGov for the German Press Agency from July 31 to August 3. A quarter of all respondents said all US troops should leave. Thirty-two per cent supported the number of US troops in Germany staying the same (28%) or increasing (4%). Twenty-one per cent did not answer or did not know.
There was even bigger public support for US nuclear weapons being removed from Germany.
The US stores 20 atomic bombs at the Büchel Air Base in the southwestern German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. This is because of the UN’s “nuclear sharing” policy, which prescribes that European countries that don’t possess nuclear weapons of their own should host weapons belonging to other countries as a means of deterrent.
Sixty-six per cent of the 2,076 Germans who responded to the YouGov survey said they wanted all 20 bombs to be removed from Germany. Just 19% said they wanted them to stay.
Well over half of respondents (58%) said they disagreed with Trump’s view that Germany spent too little on its defence, while a quarter agreed with him.
Under the US plan, about half of the US troops being withdrawn from Germany would be relocated across Europe.
The White House this week said an additional 1,000 troops would be sent to Poland. Others are set to be redeployed to Italy and countries in the Black Sea and Baltic regions. The rest would return to the US, at least temporarily.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is next week set to tour capitals in Central and Eastern Europe to discuss the redeployment of US troops across the continent. He is expected to visit the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Poland.