The Polish presidential elections were even more important than some experts said. Then it was determined not only and not so much who and where will lead the country further – the conservative Eurosceptic Duda or the pro-European liberal Tchaikovsky. The entire world trend towards the “right turn”, which Trump personified, was under threat. The US President could have lost one of his key allies in Europe, which would have hit his positions too. However, Duda won, and a couple of weeks after that, Trump decided to transfer the promised troops to Poland. And the reason is not only in the warm relations between Trump and Duda but also in the long-standing conflict between US President and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The United States plans to withdraw nearly 12,000 American troops from Germany. There are two reasons for this decision. First, the Pentagon insisted on reducing the military contingent, considering it part of a long-term strategy. Secondly, the move was linked to Donald Trump’s desire to punish Berlin for low defense spending.
A total of 11,900 American troops will leave Germany. Of these, 6,300 will return to the United States, from where they can be used for rotary deployment in Eastern Europe and around the world. Another 5,600 soldiers will be deployed in other NATO countries, mainly in Poland, but options for their deployment are also being considered in Belgium and Italy.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the military relocation would begin within weeks, but also stressed that planning for the redeployment is at an early stage and will cost the country several billion dollars.
He has repeatedly denied that the decision was motivated by Trump’s often-expressed desire to withdraw troops from Germany to teach Berlin a lesson that Germans are not spending enough on defense. The Pentagon issued a statement saying that the withdrawal will “strengthen NATO, strengthen the containment of Russia” and increase the availability of US military forces.
However, the US President does not hide the true reasons for the redeployment of troops. American troops, Trump asks rhetorically, “is there to protect Germany, right? And Germany has to pay for it. Germany does not pay for this. We don’t want to be a laughing stock anymore. The United States has been used in both trade and military for 25 years. So we are reducing forces because they are not paying the bills. ”
Trump has long argued that Germany is not paying its “NATO duties.” However, the situation is somewhat more complicated.
In fact, friction between the United States and Germany stems from national defense spending. In 2014, under President Obama, the allies agreed to spend 2% of their GDP on defense by 2024. Trump later tried to renegotiate this agreement, believing that America was spending too much on NATO security.
Germany currently spends 1.5% of GDP on defense, but this is far from the worst performance. For example, Belgium, where the United States can move part of its forces, spends less than 1%, and Italy spends 1.2%. But Poland fulfills its obligations to the United States in full, therefore it will become the main beneficiary from the withdrawal of US troops from Germany.
Pentagon chief Esper argues that the redeployment will increase the influence of American troops in the Baltics, Poland, and the Black Sea region. The US Secretary of Defense said, “It strengthens deterrence, strengthens allies, calms them down.” Mark Esper said he received “very positive reviews” from many NATO countries.
The minister said that the American command of African forces, currently in Stuttgart, will also be transferred to a new headquarters, which has yet to be decided.
Critics of the Pentagon’s decision said troop redeployment would be a very expensive and time-consuming process that would damage NATO cohesion and contain Russia. A troop withdrawal east will cost more to maintain the status quo and build less trust in host countries while undermining morale by forcing soldiers to spend more time away from their families.
By contrast, retired Lieutenant Daniel Davis, a senior fellow at the Defense Priorities think tank, argues that whatever the short-term motives, withdrawing troops from Germany makes strategic sense.
“We don’t need that many troops there. Because, in my opinion, there is no security threat that these troops are really helping with. Russia is already holding back. If you withdraw all American troops from Europe …. it will not change the deterrent factor for Russia, because the combined armed forces of NATO are much more powerful than Russia, plus they have nuclear weapons, ”Davis said.