We have about 36,000 American military troops stationed in Germany — this long after WWII and the old Cold War when the Soviets still had similar forces based in what was East Germany.
I was one of those who did three years in the old West Germany in the Air Force, 1956-59. We were a protective force then. But also a kind of occupation force with a large say in that country’s politics and economy. We still have Army and Air Force bases across the country. Look at this map:
Our troops have filled their bars, dated their young women and used to get in highly-publicized fights between whites and blacks.
The Russians are long gone. Germany has a self-sufficient military force with the latest technology. I can see the sense of maintaining the headquarters of U.S. European Command, the Special Operations Command Europe U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Special Operations Command Africa there.
But 36,000 troops? So I’m not one of those alarmed by the Trump administration’s plan to pull out 12,000. I’d probably double that.
But it is bad news for Trump to tie the cuts to what he alleges is Germany’s failure to pay enough into NATO. There are more subtle and less image-damaging ways to persuade Berlin to shoulder its share of money.
I’ve always had a bad feeling about our long presence of armed forced there. Would we ever allow 36,000 foreign forces to live indefinitely on many bases in the U.S. under any circumstances? I don’t think so.
And with the moves, we’ll still have 24,000 troops there, so what’s the big hullabaloo?
Well, as usual, it’s about Trump. Rather than just explain the movement as strategic and necessary as we shift from Europe to Asia, he said this:
“They’re there to protect Europe. They’re there to protect Germany, right? And Germany is supposed to pay for it. Germany’s not paying for it. We don’t want to be the suckers anymore. So we’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills. It’s very simple, they’re delinquent.”
Why does this guy always say the wrong thing?
Peter Beyer, the German government’s coordinator for transatlantic relations, said “The U.S. troop reduction is not in the security interests of Germany or NATO — and makes no geopolitical sense for the U.S. We need more cooperation to master the future.”
GOP Sen. Mitt Romney weighed in. “The plan is a slap in the face at a friend and ally when we should instead be drawing closer in our mutual commitment to deter Russian and Chinese aggression. The move may temporarily play well in domestic politics, but its consequences will be lasting and harmful to American interests.“
Again, from my viewpoint it’s long overdue for us to stop “occupying” so much of Germany with our bases, airplanes, tanks and missiles — but not by knocking such a critical ally as a deadbeat.
Trump has become the master of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Maybe come January 20, 2021, Joe Biden can start doing some repair work.