Washington (AP) – The US Congress is currently seeking to block President Donald Trump’s planned withdrawal of 12,000 US soldiers from Germany.
This is evident from the bill for the US defense budget, on which Democrats and Republicans reached agreement in Congress on Thursday (local time) in both houses. It states that the United States Secretary of Defense must state in a report to Congress whether such a withdrawal would be in the national interest of the United States.
At the earliest 120 days later, the number of US soldiers stationed in the Federal Republic could fall below the 34,500 limit. This roughly corresponds to the current strength of US forces in Germany, the second-largest location of US forces abroad after Japan.
In Berlin, the planned blockade of the withdrawal of troops led to relief. “Of course, we are delighted that there appears to be an agreement between Republicans and Democrats in Washington to call all this up for discussion,” said Federal Secretary of State Heiko Maas (SPD).
Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder, whose country would be particularly hard hit by the withdrawal of troops, welcomed the move: “A reversal of this order would be just the right signal for the transatlantic partnership.” Withdrawing troops would have been a strategic mistake and counterproductive to cooperation in NATO.
The planned blockade of the troop withdrawal is entrenched in the 4,500-page defense budget legislative package for the coming year, agreed by members of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and the Trump-Republican-dominated Senate. After being passed in Congress by the two houses of Congress, Trump must sign the bill for it to take effect.
Trump had announced the partial withdrawal of US soldiers from Germany in June, justifying the move with what he saw as German defense spending. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who has since been fired, presented the details at the end of July and announced that he would implement them “as soon as possible”. After that, one third of the 36,000 soldiers in Germany at that time would have to return to the US or be transferred to other European NATO countries.
There are three main locations:
– STUTTGART: The two command centers for the US troops in Europe and Africa will be moved from the capital Baden-Württemberg to Mons in Belgium according to Trump’s ideas.
– VILSECK: 4,500 soldiers are brought to the US from the Bavarian site on the huge Grafenwöhr military training area in Upper Palatinate.
– SPANGDAHLEM: A squadron of about 20 F16 fighter jets, including crew, mechanics and support personnel, is being moved from the Eifel air base of Rhineland-Palatinate to Italy.
Trump’s plans soon met with criticism – not only from the US military, but also from within the Republican Party. The draft budget law now states that Congress continues to value Germany as a strong NATO partner. The presence of “approximately 34,500 members of the US armed forces stationed in Germany” served as a major deterrent to Russia’s expansion efforts in Europe. US forces in Germany are also critical in supporting US operations in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan.
Trump has threatened to block the defense budget with a right of veto – but that has nothing to do with the debate about the withdrawal of US troops from Germany, but with a dispute over the regulation of online platforms. In the summer, he had also threatened to veto the legislative package in a dispute over a possible renaming of military bases.
A presidential veto can be overruled by a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate. The defense budget package is part of a series of bills that Congress plans to pass before the end of the year. The defense budget was passed with bipartisan support for 59 consecutive years.
Republican Trump lost the presidential election on November 3 to Democrat Joe Biden and will be replaced on January 20, 2021, even though he has so far refused to admit defeat. Even if the budget bill were to be passed, the question is whether the withdrawal plans will really be reversed completely.
Because there are also points that are considered sensible by the military – especially merging management structures. This would mainly have consequences for the relocation of the command centers from Stuttgart to Belgium.