U.S. Troop Withdrawal From Germany Is a Mistake
The symbol of the U.S Air Force sits at the Westgate entrance to the Ramstein United States Air Force Airbase in Landstuhl, Germany. (Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg)

U.S. Troop Withdrawal From Germany Is a Mistake

The U.S. said it will withdraw about 12,000 troops from Germany, a move that Defense Secretary Mark Esper said would bolster NATO and deter Russia. President Donald Trump, though, previously suggested the action was more about punishing Germany, which he has claimed hasn’t met the alliance’s goal that all members spend at least 2% of gross domestic product on defense. About 5,600 troops would be redeployed to other nations in Europe, including Italy and Belgium, while 6,400 would return to the U.S., Esper said. The process might take years, leaving the U.S. with about 24,000 forces in Germany, according to Bloomberg News.

Bloomberg Opinion columnists have been analyzing the implications of the U.S. cutting its troop levels in Germany since early June, when the Trump administration began considering the move. Here are their thoughts:

Trump’s Germany Retreat Is a Victory for Putin: “A good question to ask in looking at a major basing decision is quite simple: Who benefits? In this case, certainly not the U.S., because it will lose strategic bases close to its adversaries. It won’t save any money — in fact, the Pentagon will lose German subsidies. When the troops are moved back to the U.S., it will require bases to house them, and, if they need to be re-deployed, transportation costs will be significant.” — James Stavridis

Pulling U.S. Troops Out of Germany Is Misguided: “As is so often the case, the potential benefits of the administration’s policy have been negated by the chaos surrounding it. A prudent reduction to the U.S. troop presence in Germany could strengthen the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, provided Washington redeploys those forces elsewhere in Europe. But any such move should be done in coordination with partners, not in defiance of them.” — Editorial Board

U.S.-Germany Crisis Is Deeper Than Trump Troop Cuts: “This isn't like the U.S. decision, in the early 2000s, to remove some of its troops from South Korea. That shift was part of a broad, deliberate global realignment of U.S. forces during the war on terrorism. It came in concert with a repositioning of the remaining forces in South Korea to make them more survivable in case of war, and thus more valuable to the South Koreans. Nor is it akin to withdrawing troops from a war zone in which they are taking heavy casualties to no good strategic end — the sort of pullback that can serve a country’s national interests.” — Hal Brands

U.S. Troop Cuts in Germany Would Be a Disaster: “From Berlin to Paris, London, Tokyo, Seoul, Ottawa and Canberra, leaders are concluding that America’s support is no longer categorical but transactional, and that it’s time to make other arrangements. The tragedy for Europe is that there may never be a credible alternative to American military protection.” — ​​​​​ Andreas Kluth

U.S. Allies Can't Face Four More Years of Trump: “President Donald Trump’s denigration of alliances, his personal attacks on the leaders of other North Atlantic Treaty Organization members, and his criticisms of global allies for supposedly not pulling their military weight, have been some of the lowest moments of his tenure and some of the most harmful for long-term U.S. security.” — Tobin Harshaw

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Robert Burgess is the Executive Editor for Bloomberg Opinion. He is the former global Executive Editor in charge of financial markets for Bloomberg News. As managing editor, he led the company’s news coverage of credit markets during the global financial crisis.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.