Germany: US troop reduction could harm NATO security

Berlin, Germany’s defense minister suggested Monday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s reported plans to withdraw more than a quarter of American troops out of Germany could weaken not only the NATO alliance but the U.S. itself, said an AP report.

Trump is said to have has signed off on a plan to reduce the total of troops stationed in Germany from 34,500 to no more than 25,000, according to reports by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, but German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters that Berlin hasn’t yet been informed of any such move.

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, confirmed to The Associated Press that there are plans to move troops, saying some could go to Poland while others could go elsewhere.

The decision is part of the president’s and Department of Defense efforts to review combatant commands around the globe, the official said.

If the U.S. goes ahead, Kramp-Karrenbauer suggested the move would do more harm to NATO as a whole than to Germany’s own defense.

“The fact is that the presence of U.S. soldiers in Germany serves the entire NATO alliance security, including America’s own security,” she said. “That is the basis on which we work together.”

In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg sidestepped a question on the decision, saying that in general “over the last few years we have actually seen an increase in the U.S. presence” in Europe.

“What I can say is that we are constantly consulting with the United States, with other NATO allies on the military posture and presence in Europe,” he said.

The Trump administration has been urging Germany to spend more on its defense to meet the NATO goal of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense, and American officials in the past had raised the possibility of moving troops out as a veiled threat.

As such, the government’s coordinator for trans-Atlantic relations, Peter Beyer, said if the plan is confirmed it wouldn’t be a surprise, but that it was irritating to first learn of the possibility through media reports.

“The German-American relationship could be severely affected by such a decision of the U.S. president,” Beyer told the dpa news agency.

“It’s not just about 9,500 soldiers, but also about their families, so about 20,000 Americans. This would break down trans-Atlantic bridges.”