In the election campaign, Donald Trump has a long list of international targets to mock, from the UN to the EU, the WTO and many more. As NATO defense ministers met in a teleconference yesterday, the organization, which the United States labeled “outdated,” was digesting its latest denigration campaign.
On Monday, he announced plans to withdraw 9,500 of the 34,500 German troops based in Germany.
Trump has long complained that Germany and others are taking advantage of the US commitment to European security, failing to meet the target of allocating 2% of GDP to military spending. “We are defending Germany and they are criminals. It’s not logical, “he said this week. “Until they pay, we take our soldiers from there.”
But European leaders see this threat as new evidence that the United States is undermining the transatlantic alliance and a new argument for relying more on its own European forces.
Germany spent 1.38% of its GDP on defense last year, but efforts by the Christian Democratic Union to increase the share have sparked opposition from Social Democrat coalition partners. Both the Greens and the left-wing Die Linke oppose an increase in defense spending.
German diplomats argue that, as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg points out, the US presence is as much about US self-defense and transatlantic security as it is about the design of US power in the surrounding region and Germany’s defense. Ramstein Air Force Base and Landstuhl Military Hospital “are essential to what the United States has done for decades in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa,” says Stoltenberg.
The strategic blow that Germany could take in terms of its ability to repel a Russian offensive is almost certainly less dramatic than the economic blow that the closure of the base would represent. And if, as some suggest, troops are transferred to Poland, the US-made financial savings will be marginal. The real price of this boast will be their credibility in the eyes of the allies. (Rador)