WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Monday he is planning to withdraw a little more than half of the U.S. troops now stationed in Germany, despite concerns that such a move would reduce American influence throughout Europe.
Claiming Germany is not paying enough toward the NATO military alliance, Trump said the total deployment of American troops in Germany would drop to 25,000. The president estimated around 52,000 military personnel are stationed in Germany, but that number may include Defense Department civilian employees.
“Germany’s delinquent, they’ve been delinquent for years,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “They owe NATO billions of dollars and they have to pay it.”
Under NATO rules, countries have committed to spend at least 2 percent of their annual defense budgets on the alliance. Germany has not yet reached that goal. The country did spend 1.36 percent of its gross domestic product on the NATO allianc in 2019, though, because of its size, the country spends more on its military than its European neighbors.
Neither Germany nor any other NATO country owes money to the United States for maintenance of the alliance.
Trump confirmed the drawdown plan, first reported by the Wall Street Journal last week, but so far has not issued a written order. The president has frequently raised the idea of reducing the U.S. military commitment throughout the world, including in Germany as well as South Korea. He has spoken publicly of withdrawing all U.S. troops from Syria, but some still remain there.
As of March 31, 34,674 U.S. military personnel resided in Germany, a figure that fluctuates as troops are moved in and out of Europe, according to public data from the most recent Pentagon deployment report. Germany is home to the largest number of U.S. troops in Europe, followed by Italy, the U.K. and Spain.
Richard Grenell, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany who stepped down earlier this month, defended the plan in an interview with the German tabloid Bild last week.
“American taxpayers no longer feel like paying too much for the defense of other countries,” he said.
Throughout his presidency, Trump has often been at odds with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with NATO and the American troop commitment at the top of the list of their disagreements. Last month, Merkel turned down Trump’s invitation to attend the Group of 7 meeting he plans to host in Washington this month, citing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Trump also told reporters Germany has treated the U.S. “very badly” on trade. He said his administration was in talks with the European Union and he was “not satisfied with the deal they want to make.”
“We get hurt on trade and we get hurt on NATO,” he said.
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said last week a troop withdrawal would weaken both NATO and the U.S.
“The fact is that the presence of U.S. soldiers in Germany serves the entire NATO alliance security, including America’s own security. That is the basis on which we work together,” she said.