The United States recently announced that it would be pulling 12,000 military personnel out of Germany. This would be a nearly 25% reduction in the number of troops stationed within the country, which has been a host to a Western military presence since the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. Around half of the troops will be moved to various countries within the NATO alliance while the other half will return home. The fulfillment of this redeployment could potentially take years and cost billions of dollars to complete.
U.S. Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, appeared to give an optimistic prognosis on the speed and cost of the move, stating that the move would take mere weeks and claimed that it was a “strategic redeployment” to better counter threats from Russia and China. This was contradicted by President Trump who claimed that the move was due to Berlin being “delinquent” and not pulling their weight on spending. The move has been widely unpopular both abroad and domestically. The chairman of Germany’s Foreign Affairs Committee claimed that it would, “weaken the NATO alliance” while Democrat and Republican officials have been quick to voice their displeasure. U.S. officials told Foreign Policy that what was most shocking was not the number of troops being redeployed but rather the lack of communication between the U.S. and its allies throughout.
For many, this seems to be an action of political revenge rather than the strategic redistribution of troops as Esper claims. Trump has long railed against fellow NATO members for not contributing at least 2% of their GDP on military spending; it was one of his primary talking points during his 2016 campaign for presidency. Germany has been a frequent target of his, not only on the issue of the military, but on trade as well. Contentious actions such as the recent troop pullout have become a hallmark of the Trump administration, creating friction in the long-standing alliance between the United States and its NATO partners.
One might question whether NATO is still even necessary to deter threats from abroad these days. The move of troops from Germany will likely do little to affect NATO’s long-term posturing, as even those that return home to the United States could be deployed down the line. However, the redeployment is not an issue of material or manpower support for vulnerable countries. Rather the issue lies in what this move and how it is being carried out sends to other NATO members. It sends the message that the United States is willing to put petty politics before greater responsibilities. It says that the country may not be as committed to defending its allies as it claims. Most of all it demonstrates that the U.S. cannot be relied on.
Since World War II, conflict in Europe and worldwide has followed a downward trend. We currently live in one of the most peaceful centuries in human history. While the reasons for this peace is multi fold, perhaps the biggest contributor to this is the web of economic, political, and military connections the United States has built. By damaging the United States’ relationship with its allies, President Trump indirectly endangers global stability and peace.
The cooperation borne out of the end of World War II resulted in the creation of the UN, the IMF, and many more organizations that promote stability throughout the world. The United States has held a presence in Germany and other NATO organizations since the Cold War and beyond. However that may be subject to change in the coming years as the geopolitical landscape shifts.
Mr. Trump’s move is one that, in the author’s opinion, is damaging not only to the United States’ interest but in the interest of promoting world peace. Conflict can only be prevented by understanding, understanding can only be built through dialogue and cooperation. With the United States’ position as a global superpower, it wields the unique capability and responsibility to build peaceful relationships. Ultimately it will be up to the United States whether it chooses to accept this responsibility or not.
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