U.S.’s threats to withdraw troops causes stir among German politicians

U.S.’s threats to withdraw troops causes stir among German politicians

Friday, August 9, 2019 6:22 pm

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel

The U.S. Ambassador, Richard Grenell, on Thursday threatened to withdraw its troops from Germany.

The threat stirred a debate among politicians criticising low German defence spending.

“It is actually offensive to assume that the U.S. taxpayer must continue to pay to have 50,000-plus Americans in Germany, but the Germans get to spend their surplus on domestic programmes,’’ Grenell said.

Lawmaker Carsten Schneider from the Social Democratic Party (SPD), called Grenell’s comments utterly unacceptable between allies.

He also said on Friday that Germany would not be blackmailed on this issue and that Washington’s “act of the posturing general’’ was getting old.

Johann Wadephul, a member of the SPD’s coalition partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc, said he understood the U.S. criticism.

“Germany promised the alliance a much higher defence effort,’’ he said.

However, the hard-left Die Linke party welcomed the U.S. suggestion, saying the German government should definitely accept the offer and discuss a plan with the U.S. for withdrawing troops.

Bartsch also called on the U.S. to withdraw its nuclear weapons from Germany as well.

“If the Americans pull out their troops, then they should take their nuclear weapons with them.

Take them home, of course, and not to Poland, which would be a dramatic escalation in relations to Russia,’’ he said.

During a visit by Polish President Andrzej Duda to Washington in June, President Donald Trump suggested redeploying U.S. troops from Germany to Poland.

Germany is host to the largest number of U.S. troops in Europe and has the largest contingent of U.S. troops abroad after Japan.

Grenell’s latest remarks came ahead of Trump’s planned trip to Europe in late August, though not to Germany.

“President Trump is right.

“Multiple presidents have asked the largest economy in Europe to pay for their own defence.

“This is a multi-year, multi-administration.

“I think that we are at the point where Americans and the U.S. president are reacting at the multi-administration blow-off,’’ Grenell said.

Meanwhile, there had been speculation for some time now about plans for U.S. troop cuts but had been officially denied.

Grenell had even announced an increase of troops by 1,500 since taking up his responsibilities.

In spite of a considerable rise in defence expenditure, with a medium-term goal of spending 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product by 2024, Germany was still well behind the NATO target of two per cent.

The figure projected for 2023 was just 1.24 per cent, with widespread allegations of serious deficiencies in German military hardware.

However, a total of 35,000 U.S. troops were stationed in Germany, with an additional 17,000 U.S. and 12,000 German civilians employed by the U.S. military.

Tens of thousands of more jobs depended on them in the country.

The southern state of Bavaria is home to one of the largest U.S. military exercise grounds in Grafenwoehr.

Bavaria’s regional government also reacted to the U.S. comments, emphasising the friendship between the two partners.

“U.S soldiers like living in Bavaria and they are good friends and partners to us,’’ a spokesman for the Bavarian state chancellery said.

In an indication of U.S. irritation, Trump’s visit is making a detour around Europe’s richest country.

The U.S. president travels to French Atlantic resort of Biarritz on Aug. 24, for a G7 summit, where he will meet Merkel.

However, between Aug. 31 and Sept. 3, he planned to visit Denmark and Poland, two countries that had so far backed the U.S. on key issues.

Such issues include the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline providing a direct link between Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea, which the U.S. wanted construction halted. (dpa/NAN)

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