The German government’s coordinator for transatlantic relations has warned that reported plans by the U.S. to withdraw thousands of troops from the country could considerably damage German-U.S. relations.
“The German-American relationship could be severely affected by such a decision by the U.S. president,” Peter Beyer told dpa.
Mr Beyer’s comments came in response to reports in the U.S. and German media that President Donald Trump had decided to withdraw thousands of troops from Germany.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Trump had ordered 9,500 U.S. personnel to be removed from NATO ally Germany, which hosts some 34,500 troops.
News magazine Der Spiegel put the number to be withdrawn at between 5,000 and 15,000 by autumn of this year.
“It’s not just about 9,500 soldiers, but also their families, an estimated 20,000 Americans.
“This would break transatlantic bridges,” Mr Beyer added.
There was no official confirmation of the reports from either side.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, in remarks to the Sunday tabloid Bild am Sonntag, stressed that both sides remain interested in close cooperation.
“If there is a withdrawal of some U.S. troops, we will take note of this,” Mr Maas told Bild am Sonntag.
He noted that Berlin appreciates cooperation with the U.S. armed forces, which has grown over the course of decades.
“It is in the interest of our two countries,” the minister added.
Regarding the relationship between Germany and the U.S., Mr Maas said: “We are close partners in the transatlantic alliance. But: It’s complicated.”
The head of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) in parliament, Rolf Muetzenich, warned that the alleged U.S. plans could lead to a “lasting realignment of security policy in Europe.”
“In any case, the strategic planning of the U.S. is shifting to Asia,” newspapers of the Funke media group quoted Muetzenich as saying on Sunday.
“Against this background, embedding German security policy in a European environment is even more urgent and meaningful, although the challenges are greater than a few years ago.”
Given the financial burdens of all countries due to the coronavirus pandemic, “opportunities for limiting the military and armament could currently arise,” Muetzenich added.
Greens politician Juergen Trittin meanwhile accused President Trump of having floated a possible troop withdrawal solely with a view to its effect on the upcoming U.S. presidential election.
“After the imposition of punitive tariffs, sanctions contrary to international law and the determination that Europe is worse than China, this should come as no surprise to anyone on this side of the Atlantic. But it should be deeply disturbing,” Trittin asserted.
Lawmaker Johann Wedephul, the deputy head of the governing conservative bloc in parliament, said on Saturday that the reports and the apparent lack of consultation were a further sign that Europe needed to become more self-reliant in matters of defence.
“The plans demonstrate that the Trump administration is ignoring a basic task of leadership: to keep alliance partners involved in the decision process.
“Everyone benefits from the unity of the alliance; only Russia and China benefit from disputes.
“Washington should be more aware of this,” he said.
Speculation that the Trump administration could pull troops from Germany – which has the largest U.S. deployment in Europe – has long been rife.
The former U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, threatened such a withdrawal last year.
In an interview with dpa, he said it was “offensive” that U.S. taxpayers must foot the bill for the deployment on German territory while “Germans get to spend their surplus on domestic programmes.”
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