While most of the media fixate on President Trump’s stated motives for removing a few thousand U.S. troops from Germany, they ignore the bigger strategic picture. As noted by AP, “Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that while the decision was ‘accelerated’ by Trump’s orders, the moves also promote larger strategic goals to deter Russia, reassure European allies and shift forces further east into the Black Sea and Baltic regions.”
Yes, Trump wanted to speed up this move due to German Chancellor’s Angela Merkel’s continuing delinquency in not meeting Germany’s minimal 2% defense spending commitment to NATO, but as AP reports, the move is also “closely tied to the plan to increase the U.S. troop presence in Poland, a shift long desired by Warsaw and Polish President Andrzej Duda” (RELATED: U.S. Right to Send Troops From Germany to Pacific – but Don’t Forget Poland).
As AP reported:
Under an agreement announced last year, the U.S. said it was sending about 1,000 more troops to Poland, and progress is being made to prepare for those moves. Under that agreement, the U.S. will add a division headquarters, a combat training center, an unmanned aircraft squadron and structure to support a rotational Army brigade.
Out of 11,000 soldiers taken from Germany, 5,600 will be sent to other countries in Europe, including Poland and Italy, but that will leave 24,000 still based in Germany. AP added that “in the future other units would rotate in and out of Europe.”
Another major move in this strategic realignment would shift U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) headquarters and Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) from Stuttgart, Germany, to Belgium. This would place these U.S. commands nearer to NATO Headquarters.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, meanwhile, welcomed the U.S. move and said Washington has been consulting allies on the matter recently, according to AP.
Significantly, notes AP, “Germany is a hub for U.S. operations in the Middle East and Africa.” The decision to keep nearly half the forces [moved out of Germany] in Europe is a clear move by the Pentagon to assuage allies by avoiding the complete withdrawal of 12,000 troops out of the region.”
And by spreading forces into the east, AP adds, “it sends a message to Russia that the U.S. is not reducing its commitment to the region and remains ready to protect Eastern Europe from Moscow aggression.”
This is the real strategic significance of the U.S. moving troops out of Germany.