Trump’s administrative decision to attracting nearly 12,000 troops from Germany has received a bipartisan attack on the Senate, amid warnings it will disrupt the US alliance.
The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, fended off urgent questions in the Senate on Thursday, and by doing so, mistakenly claimed to have fought along the East German border when he was stationed there as an army lieutenant in the late 1980s. There were no battles in Germany during the cold war.
The Pentagon insisted the withdrawal was ordered as part of overall strategic repositioning US troops abroad, but Donald Trump explains that he sees it as a German punishment for not spending enough on defense.
Pompeo said that the state department had been part of discussions about the transfer, which involved 6,400 troops being taken to the US and 5,500 others stationed elsewhere in Europe, mostly Belgium and Italy.
Questioning Pompeo at a Senate foreign relations committee meeting, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen said: “The only country that openly supports the transfer of US troops from Germany today is Russia.”
Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who reflected the widespread unrest at the GOP about the move, told Pompeo: “I have heard from the highest levels of the German government that this was seen by them as an insult to GermanyAnd I can’t imagine when we need to draw our friends and allies so that we can face China together, we want to insult them. “
Pompeo insisted that withdrawing troops to the US did not mean they were “off the field”.
“These units will participate in rotation activities. They will be mobilized going forward, “he said. “They will not be placed or imprisoned, but make no mistake about it, they will be fully available to ensure that we can properly demand the challenges we have from global forces.”
His statement seems to reflect the defense department’s assurance that troops brought back to the US will be available to serve temporary tours in the Baltic states, Poland or the Black Sea region.
When urged by Shaheen about the impact of withdrawal on relations with Berlin, Pompeo did not immediately respond, but said: “This is personal to me. I fought on the East German border when I was a young soldier. I was stationed there.”
Pompeo served as a lieutenant in a tank regiment in West Germany from 1986 to 1991, at which time the east-west border was completely peaceful. He did not take part in any battles during his military career.
Shaheen reminded him that his former unit was one of those drawn to the United States. Foreign Policy quoted the defense ministry document on Thursday, where Troops in Germany were told that the transfer would “likely take months to plan and years to execute”.
Trump said he ordered the move because Germany was not spending enough on its own defense and American taxpayers were being “taken for exploiters”.
However, Germany has recently increased its spending, and has said it will reach the 2% GDP target for NATO’s defense spending for 2024.
Belgium and Italy, where many US troops will be rehired, spend less than Germany as part of national income.
Diplomats and former officials have suggested that Trump’s decision might be driven by personal animosity towards Germany and its chancellor, Angela Merkel.
Fox News reports in June that the withdrawal was the idea of the ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, in retaliation for Angela Merkel’s actions decision not to attend G7 Summit at Camp David at the peak of the pandemic.
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