U.S. President Donald Trump said the United States is cutting its troops in Germany by a third because “Germany is not paying for it,” proving that the troop withdrawal is linked to cost sharing issues. Against this backdrop, concerns are rising in South Korea that it might be the next target.
When asked about the withdrawal during a press conference at the White House on Wednesday, President Trump said Berlin was being “delinquent” by not spending enough money on defense. The remarks came right after Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced the plan to pull 11,900 of 36,000 troops from Germany, which was about 2,400 more than what Washington initially proposed.
President Trump argued Washington was not obliged to keep troops in Berlin when Berlin had not and would not pay for it. “The United States has been taken advantage of for 25 years, both on trade and on the military, he said. “So we’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills.” After using the word “delinquent” three times, he also said, “We don’t want to be the suckers any more.”
Secretary Esper has joined President Trump in pressuring Germany. “I think Germany is the wealthiest country in Europe. Germany can and should pay more to its defense,” Esper said when asked the link between the withdrawal and defense spending at a briefing on the same day. He also said, “These changes will achieve the core principles of enhancing U.S. and NATO deterrence of Russia, strengthening NATO, reassuring allies and improving U.S. strategic flexibility.” However, Trump’s remarks show that it was an ostensible reason.
Meanwhile, Germany criticized Washington for moving more troops than previously said. The German government’s transatlantic coordinator Peter Beyer told the news agency dpa that the withdrawal went against the interest of not only Germany and NATO but also of the United States. He then went on to say that this plan might not follow through because it faces strong opposition both from Democrats and Republicans within the Department of Defense.
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