Foreign Desk Report
BERLIN: The announced U.S. troops withdrawal from Germany was a “wake-up call for Europe,” Friedrich Merz, potential candidate as next chancellor of Germany’s governing Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told the German radio station Deutschlandfunk on Thursday. Merz, former chairman of Atlantik-Bruecke, a leading association for the promotion of transatlantic relations between Germany and the United States, described the U.S. plan as “disturbing.” However, he added that there was “no reason for panic on the European side.”
Merz is among a slew of German politicians who voiced criticism against the U.S. move. “The announced withdrawal of U.S. troops is disappointing,” Minister of State for Europe at the foreign ministry Michael Roth told the German editorial network (RND) on Thursday.
Roth, a member of the co-governing Social Democratic Party (SPD), said Germans should not complain now but rather regard the U.S. step as a “chance to strengthen our European sovereignty.”
“It is time for Europe to strengthen its role in the world and stand on its own two feet. It is about our self-assertion,” Roth stressed.
Describing the U.S. move as “a Kamikaze action,” Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, defense policy spokeswoman for the Free Democratic Party (FDP), told the German broadcaster ZDF that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) “is being destroyed by the current U.S. president.”
Kamikaze were Japanese suicide bombers in the World War II. Germany’s Bavaria State’s Minister-President Markus Soeder told the German Press Agency (dpa) that Washington’s step “unfortunately strained the German-American relationship.”
On Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced that the United States would withdraw a total of 11,900 soldiers from Germany. Around 6,400 soldiers would be sent home while almost 5,600 would be relocated from Germany to other NATO countries, according to Esper. Criticizing Berlin’s “delinquency” on military spending, U.S. President Donald Trump last month ordered the U.S. military to withdraw 9,500 troops from Germany. Currently, about 36,000 U.S. troops are deployed in the European country.
Meanwhile, The United States will take years to move its main military command in Europe from Germany to NATO headquarters in Belgium and updating facilities will be costly, three former senior officials said.
Despite concerns that the move announced on Wednesday is politically motivated, they told Reuters that “streamlining and rationalising” the U.S. military presence in Europe made some strategic sense. Under a plan to reduce U.S. troop numbers in Germany, President Donald Trump has instructed the United States European Command (EUCOM) to be moved from Stuttgart to Mons, near Brussels.