President Donald Trump on Monday approved plans to significantly reduce the number of US troops in Germany after being briefed by top Pentagon officials on the move, which was directed by Trump and has drawn bipartisan criticism that it would weaken the US military’s ability to deter Russia.
“The Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff briefed the President yesterday on plans to redeploy 9,500 troops from Germany,” Chief Pentagon Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement Tuesday, adding that Trump approved the plan.
Multiple current and former officials previously told CNN that Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who has avoided criticizing the move publicly, had significant concerns about it.
Hoffman claimed that “the proposal that was approved not only meets the President’s directive, it will also enhance Russian deterrence, strengthen NATO, reassure Allies, improve US strategic flexibility and U.S. European Command’s operational flexibility, and take care of our service members and their families.”
However the plan to cut US forces from Germany, where there are currently some 34,500 personnel, has drawn opposition from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers as well as America’s allies in Europe.
Dozens of Republican members of Congress have written to Trump in an effort to get him to reverse his decision to reduce US troops from Germany and Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, of Utah, recently introduced legislation that would limit the use of funds implement the decision.
During a meeting with Trump last week, Polish President Andrzej Duda said that any withdrawal of US troops from Europe would be detrimental to security.
Hoffman said that “Pentagon leaders look forward to briefing this plan to the congressional defense committees in the coming weeks, followed by consultations with NATO allies on the way forward.”
But just hours before that statement, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “no decision has been made on when, the timelines, how such a plan will be implemented.”
“It’s too early to say whether the troops that will be withdrawn from Germany will be taken back to the United States, deployed somewhere else in the world or redeployed in Europe, that is part of the ongoing consultations,” he said while speaking at an event hosted by the German Institute for Global Affairs and Study.
Trump has long criticized Germany over a range of issues, particularly Berlin’s failure to meet the target of spending 2% of GDP on defense that is recommended by NATO.
The US military has stationed forces in Germany since the end of the Second World War and the presence of over 200,000 troops there on the front lines of the Cold War helped deter the Soviet Union from mounting an attack on NATO members.
While the number of US troops in Germany had decreased significantly in recent years, US bases in the country continue to be used by the military due to their strategic location and the presence of US defense infrastructure such as air bases and medical facilities.