U.S. Pivots Further From Trump With More Troops for Germany

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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that 500 additional troops will be stationed in Germany from the fall, marking a reversal of former President Donald Trump’s planned drawdown.

President Joe Biden said in February he was freezing Trump’s plan to withdraw about 9,500 soldiers from Germany -- a move that had stunned European and North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and generated bipartisan protest in the U.S. Congress.

U.S. Pivots Further From Trump With More Troops for Germany

After talks with German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in Berlin on Tuesday, Austin told reporters that the extra troops -- who will be based in the Wiesbaden area near Frankfurt -- will provide “additional capabilities in space and cyber, and some other issues.”

The Biden administration has sought to distance itself from Trump’s “America first” foreign policy which urged U.S. allies to fend for themselves and pay more toward collective defense. It has repeatedly stated that the support of allies is central to accomplishing its foreign policy goals from competing with China to containing climate change, and managing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“We are seeing a return to much more traditional U.S. policies, working with allies, not against them,” said Philippe Maze-Sencier, a member of the board at Institut Thomas More, a Paris-based think tank. “We have a clear break from the Trump years.”

Austin’s meetings in Germany come after a visit to Israel in which he described U.S. ties to the country as “ironclad.” He will also visit NATO Headquarters in Belgium, and the U.K. A previous overseas trip featured meetings with U.S. allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific, including South Korea, Japan and India.

Asked whether the decision was a signal to Russia linked to their recent buildup of forces near the Ukrainian border, Austin replied that it’s “a message to NATO, that we support NATO in the fullest extent.” He also emphasized that U.S. opposition to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany would not affect the “tremendous relationship” between Washington and Berlin.

“Most importantly, we value our relationship with our partner here in Germany,” he added. “What I emphasized to the minister today is that we’re no longer making any plans” to withdraw troops.

Russ Wolfkiel, a spokesman for United States European Command, said the increase in personnel “underscores our commitment to Germany and the NATO Alliance.”

“The additional forces will strengthen deterrence and defense in Europe as well as add more space, cyber, and electronic warfare capabilities,” Wolfkiel said in an emailed statement.

Austin also said the U.S. is “very encouraged” by increased German defense spending. “We will also encourage the minister to continue on a positive glide path and shorten the timeline if at all possible,” he added.

Kramp-Karrenbauer said the announcement of more troops was “wonderful news” and a “very strong sign of solidarity.”

“From our side, we will do everything possible to make sure that these 500 troops and their families find a comfortable second home here, and that when they leave they do so only with the best memories,” she said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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