President Trump’s plan to withdraw about 12,000 troops from Germany has received enormous backlash from Congress and the media. The common criticism is that the move is a “gift” to Russian President Vladimir Putin. But that argument ignores the fact that about half of the troops that are leaving Germany are moving closer to Russia’s border.
In an interview with Fox News, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the troop movement will “deter” Russia. “We are moving many troops further east, closer to Russia’s border, to deter them,” Esper said. The Pentagon chief took the line of argument President Trump is making and said Germany is not paying its “fair share.”
Esper also pointed out that despite the drawdown from 36,000 to 24,000 troops, Germany will still host more US military personnel than any other NATO ally. “It is collective security, it is about our collective responsibility to stand up to the Russians.”
About 6,400 US troops leaving Germany are expected to return to the US, while the other 5,600 will spread out among NATO countries, like Poland and the Baltic States.
Shortly after the Pentagon announced the withdrawal from Germany, the US and Poland agreed to a defense pact that will establish a permanent US military presence in the country. About 1,000 troops are set to move from Germany to Poland, raising the total number of US troops in the country to 5,000.