On Wednesday morning, the US outlined a plan to remove thousands of troops from Germany. The move will take years and cost billions. Pentagon officials outlined a plan to move the US European Command from its current location in Germany to Belgium. Meanwhile, the German Stryker unit is set to become a rotational force.
The news came after President Donald Trump insisted on removing the troops from Germany. The president has an infamously icy relationship with German Prime Minister Angela Merkel. Trump’s insistence on removing the US military presence from the country has drawn bipartisan criticism from Congress. Many of Trump’s opponents have called the move a gift to Russia.
Balance of Power
Under President Trump’s leadership, the US’s status as a world power is diminishing. The country’s ongoing struggles with the COVID-19 crisis, protests against police inequality, and Trump’s constant belittling of NATO allies have all coalesced to weaken the international perception of the US. This is shown in numerous polls of people who live outside of the US. Following the pandemic, they’ve begun to hold the US in lower regard.
Trump taking steps to remove troops from one of the country’s staunchest NATO allies is baffling for many. The president already has a reputation for being soft on Russia. Despite his usual thorny demeanor with world leaders, Trump reserves warmth and praise for Russian strongman leader Vladimir Putin. This, coupled with the Mueller investigation that showed likely ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, has many second-guessing the president’s motives.
Crisis of Leadership
As the commander-in-chief, Trump has the authority to command the military on foreign matters however he sees fit. However, that doesn’t mean that Congress will agree with his actions. Trump’s reasoning for the move is that he feels Germany doesn’t spend as much as it could on defense. Since the late 80s, at least, Trump has championed this rhetoric. He insists that the US is paying too much for defense of allies in organizations like the UN and NATO.
The president’s known love of cable TV has also played into this perception. While the White House uses streaming services for TV to allow Trump his steady diet of cable news, the president seems to craft foreign policy based on TV optics. His favored channels, like Fox News, often insist on the worldview that the US is getting a bad deal by footing the bill for international security.