US plan to withdraw troops from Germany draws criticism from lawmakers on both sides

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Congress lawmakers pushed back on Wednesday’s announcement by Defense Secretary Mark Esper that the United States would withdraw 12,000 American troops from Germany’s longtime ally.

In a move encouraged by President Trump, who has repeatedly said the NATO member is “offending” in his defense bills, Esper said it was time to “reposition” US forces in Europe.

Esper stressed that politics is a movement “that will strengthen NATO, [and] strengthen Russia’s deterrence. ”

“As anyone can see, the repositioning of our forces in Europe is a major and positive strategic change, fully in line with the NDS, and consistent with other adjustments the United States has made within the United States. ‘NATO in the past,’ Esper said.

UNITED STATES ANNOUNCES PLAN TO ELIMINATE 12,000 TROOPS FROM GERMANY, WITH HALF BACK HOME

Esper’s comments differed from those of the President on the reasoning behind the policy change.

“We are reducing the force because they don’t pay their bills. It’s very simple, ”Trump told reporters Wednesday. “They are delinquents.”

Yet this is a distortion of how NATO allies contribute to defense spending, critics say.

NATO countries have pledged that by 2024 they will spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense, and in 2019 Germany submitted a percentage and a half – although they still have four years left. to honor this commitment.

Defense spending figures for 2019 show that only eight of NATO’s 30 members reached the 2% threshold – a figure accepted by NATO countries in 2006.

Republican and Democratic members of Congress voice their frustrations with the military change calling it costly and irresponsible.

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“US troops are not stationed around the world as traffic cops or social workers – they are restricting the expansionist goals of the world’s worst regimes, primarily China and Russia,” said Senator Ben Sasse, R -Neb. said Wednesday.

“The president’s lack of strategic understanding of this issue increases our response time and hinders the important deterrence work that our military do.

Epser said the cost of repositioning thousands of military personnel, along with their families, would be in the “single digit” range of $ 1 billion.

“Maintaining a forward presence is less costly for our taxpayers and more secure for our troops,” Sasse said. “President Xi and Vladimir Putin are reckless – and this withdrawal will only embolden them. ”

“We should be leading our allies against China and Russia, not abandoning them. The withdrawal is low, ”he added.

The Pentagon has argued that the move allows for more troops to be stationed in Poland, a strategy that brings troops closer to Russia and a move Warsaw has long sought.

“While some of the proposed measures clearly have merit, other aspects – such as an arbitrary limit on the number of troops stationed in certain countries – remain of concern,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, Senior Services Officer. armed house. Committee. “It is essential that we consult closely with our NATO allies on any changes.”

Although Esper said Congress has been briefed and all future action will be in coordination with Congress, House Armed Services Speaker Adam Smith, D-Washington, said lawmakers did not been informed only after the fact.

“This plan was not drafted in consultation with the American allies or with the military services, but instead all parties – including Congress – were notified after decisions had already been taken,” he said. Smith said Wednesday.

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Senator Jack Reed, D-RI, continued Esper, saying it was his job to stand up to the President in order to protect security interests.

“This is the type of movement Secretary Mattis has been able to resist in the past, but this administration appears to be crumbling under the pressure of the pandemic,” he said.

Almost 4,500 members of the service will return to the United States while the remaining 5,600 members will be scattered across Europe in the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, Poland and the Black Sea region.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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