US diplomats and President Donald Trump have repeatedly floated the idea of redeploying at least some of the estimated 35,000+ US troops stationed in Germany to Poland in recent weeks amid Berlin’s supposed refusal to raise the defence budget to the NATO-mandated goal of 2 percent of the country’s GDP.
Speaking to reporters following a meeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda in Berlin on Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel listed what she said are some “good reasons” for US troops to stay in Germany.
“I think that Germany has good areas for the deployment of American soldiers,” Merkel said, noting that Germany has “invested a lot” in developing the necessary infrastructure in these areas.
“Within the framework of friendly negotiations, we welcome the presence of American troops here. There are good reasons for stationing [US troops] in Germany, and at the same time, we know that we must make an effort to make the Bundeswehr more effective,” Merkel added, responding to US criticism about German defence spending.
Germany’s defence budget is set to reach 1.36 percent of GDP in 2019. During the press conference, Merkel mentioned that Germany would be increasing defence spending to 1.5 percent by 2024, but stressed that these commitments were made under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, and were designed to accommodate Germany’s “own interests,” and not those of any foreign power.
Talk about relocating US troops in Germany to neighbouring Poland began last week, when recently appointed US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher tweeted that unlike Germany, Poland already spends two percent of its GDP on defence. “We would welcome American troops in Germany to come to Poland,” she wrote.
Poland meets its 2% of GDP spending obligation towards NATO. Germany does not. We would welcome American troops in Germany to come to Poland.— Georgette Mosbacher (@USAmbPoland) 8 августа 2019 г.
A day later, in an interview with German media, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell sharply criticised Berlin over its 'low' military spending, saying it was “really insulting to expect” US taxpayers to continue to pay for Germany’s defence while Berlin continues to “use their trade surplus for domestic purposes.”
On Monday, President Trump retweeted remarks by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul defending Grenell, with Paul saying Grenell was “absolutely right,” and that the US needs “to reevaluate commitments all over the world and decide what is best for America first!”
The German military responded to the US officials’ remarks, saying “the presence of our American allies” on German territory “means a lot to us.”
However, some opposition lawmakers, including Die Linke MP Dietmar Bartsch, urged the US to move forward with its threats, adding that the US military should take its nuclear weapons with them when they leave.
US troops have been stationed in Germany since the end of the Second World War, when the US, the UK, France and the Soviet Union divided the country into four occupation zones. The western occupation zones were eventually united, with the Federal Republic of Germany formed in 1949, while the Soviet-occupied eastern zone became East Germany several months later. In 1994, the former Soviet Group of Forces in Germany completed its withdrawal from Germany following its unification. US forces remained behind, however, and have now been stationed in Germany for nearly three quarters of a century.
Berliners in the U.S. zone get a glimpse of American Constabulary troops on the move during a special riot control exercise in the German capital, April 20, 1945