Senate Dems Join GOP to Block US Troop Withdrawal from Germany

July 7th, 2020 - by John Vandiver / Stars and Stripes

Senators Move to Block Trump’s Proposal to Pull Thousands of Troops Out of Germany

John Vandiver / Stars and Stripes

STUTTGART, Germany (June 30, 2020) — A bipartisan group of US senators has introduced an amendment to next year’s national defense bill that would prevent President Donald Trump from withdrawing large numbers of troops from Germany.

“The withdrawal of US troops from Germany would be a gift to Russia, and that’s the last thing we should be doing,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said in a statement issued Monday, when the legislation was introduced.

“In addition to undermining our NATO alliance, a withdrawal would present serious logistical challenges and prevent our military from performing routine … readiness exercises,” he said.

Members of both parties have resisted the plan announced by Trump in early June to pull some 9,500 troops out of Germany, which would reduce the American military presence there by about a third. Most of the service members would head back to the US, while others could be repositioned in Poland and other locations in Europe, Trump has said.

The 34,000 US troops in Germany play a key role in reinforcing NATO’s eastern flank and supporting operations in Africa and the Middle East, advocates in favor of maintaining current force levels have said.

“The United States has always been more secure at home thanks to our allies abroad … In times of domestic and international turmoil, our alliances keep us safer, healthier, and more prosperous. A hasty arbitrary withdrawal only emboldens our adversaries,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said in the statement.

The proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act would limit the funds available to reduce the number of active-duty troops in Germany.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper would be required to submit a report to Congress that certifies how a reduction would serve US national security interests while not undermining NATO, security in Europe and the military’s ability to respond in a crisis.

The Pentagon would also need to prove that operations in Central and Africa Commands would not be hindered, report to Congress on the costs associated with any large-scale redeployment of forces, and determine if withdrawing thousands of troops from Germany would have a negative effect on military families who are in the country with them.

“At a time when the US and our European allies must continue to stand hand in hand in deterring malign influences, it is in our national security interest, as well as in the interest of our allies and partners, to continue our presence in Germany,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in the statement.

Other co-sponsors of the amendment were Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Democratic senators Tim Kaine of Virginia and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

Democrats Move to Block Trump’s Troop Cut Plan in Germany

John Vandiver / Stars and Stripes

 (June 19, 2020) — Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation that would block President Donald Trump’s push to withdraw nearly 10,000 troops from Germany, warning that such a move would have catastrophic security consequences for the US and benefit America’s adversaries.

“President Trump’s disastrous decision to withdraw thousands of troops from and reduce the total force cap in Germany endangers our national security,” the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said in a statement Thursday, when he and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., proposed the legislation.

Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Russian President Vladimir Putin would benefit from the proposed drawdown.

“The current US troop presence in Germany is in the US national security interest. Full stop,” he said in a statement. “This drawdown weakens America and Europe. And Vladimir Putin understands and appreciates that better than anyone.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry last week welcomed the plan to withdraw more than a quarter of US troops from Germany, saying it would help bolster security in Europe.

The legislation proposed by the Democrats would deny funding for force level reductions in Europe unless the cuts were requested by a host nation government. It would also require that 180 days’ notice be given for planned drawdowns in Europe, and that the secretaries of defense and state testify before Congress within 14 days of a proposed troop cut being announced.

On Monday, Trump confirmed that he wants to reduce the number of troops in Germany by 9,500, and tied the proposed cut to his dissatisfaction with Berlin over the amount of money it spends on defense.

Trump has repeatedly complained that Germany is falling short of its commitment to NATO to spend at least 2% of GDP on its military.

Both Republicans and Democrats have aired concerns over the proposed troop cuts in Germany. More than 20 Republican lawmakers urged President Donald Trump earlier this month to reject the plan, saying the move would weaken the NATO alliance and encourage Russian aggression.

Before Russia’s 2014 incursion into Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, it was routine for both Democratic and Republican lawmakers to complain about the number of troops in Europe and call for forces to return to the United States.

But Russia’s move on Ukraine changed that, and in recent years, efforts to strengthen the US military presence in Europe have enjoyed bipartisan support.

It isn’t clear when Trump intends to execute his directive or which military units would be affected. Proponents of current force levels argue that a large reduction would hinder operations beyond Germany, since troops based there support efforts in places like the Baltics, Middle East and Africa.

The Pentagon, which appears to have been blindsided by Trump’s decision, has been mum on the issue. US European Command also has declined to comment, referring questions to the National Security Council in Washington.

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