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US military in Germany: why, where and for how long?

34,500 US soldiers are stationed in Germany. The Trump administration's plans to withdraw nearly 10,000 of them by September have not only met with incomprehension from the military itself, some Republican US senators also want to prevent the president's plans.

On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman announced that Trump had now formally launched the withdrawal plan. The proposal had not only been accepted and the President's directive fulfilled, but it also ensured that there would continue to be a strong stance against Russia, NATO was strengthened, the allies reassured, the strategic flexibility of the United States and the operational flexibility of the European command the United States would be improved.

Mitt Romney called the print "a gift for Russia", Lindsey Graham criticized that the project had not been discussed with the German government and that it was not in the interests of America's security.

"This decline is weakening America and Europe. And Vladimir Putin understands and appreciates this better than anyone," writes Democratic Senator Bob Menendez in a press release. The member of the Senate Committee for Foreign Relations submitted a motion on June 18 to prevent the withdrawal of troops from Germany by imposing budgetary requirements.

There was a similar advance in the House of Representatives, where representatives from both political camps reacted with incomprehension to Trump's withdrawal plans. The idea behind it: Trump is Commander-in-Chief, but in order to implement the withdrawal, he needs funds that Congress must approve.

So is there an announcement without implementation? A look at the history of the US military in Germany.

Why are US troops stationed in Germany?

The presence of the US military in Germany goes back to the end of World War II. After the occupation of the Allies, the statute remained in force in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, allowing the USA, France and Great Britain to station soldiers in Germany and to monitor disarmament and demilitarization.

In 1954 an agreement was reached among NATO states to continue to allow permanent military presence in certain member states.

What is the role of the troops today?

Experts such as the former Commanding General of the US Army Europe Ben Hodges underlined the strategic importance of the troops in Germany in an interview with the US radio station NPR. "I would say the presence is essential".

"They represent part of the US contribution to NATO, which defends the interests of all 30 states. But it also gives us a forward presence in and access to all of Europe, Africa and the Middle East," said Hodges.

The "European Command" also coordinates US troops in 51 countries from Stuttgart.

The site in Germany where US nuclear weapons are stored is also located on the site of the Büchel Air Base, southwest of Koblenz.

In which cities is the US military present in Germany?

With around 35,000 military personnel, most of the US soldiers in Europe are stationed in Germany. Since the families of the military are often also involved, large US communities have formed in many German cities that also play an important role in the economy in the respective area.

Most US soldiers are now stationed in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, including Ramstein, Grafenwöhr, Vilseck, Spagndahlem and Wiesbaden.

Both the US Army in Europe, the Air Force and the American Marine Corps are under the Stuttgart command; they all maintain facilities in Germany.

Why does Trump want the trigger now?

Relations between Germany and the US have deteriorated since Trump took over from his predecessor Barack Obama in the White House. Washington has criticized Berlin several times for not investing enough in the NATO budget. In the meantime, the federal government has increased its grant, but according to Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, bilateral relations are nevertheless "complicated".

Some military experts, including Ben Hodges, have accused Trump of failing to understand the value of US soldiers in Germany for US security. The fact that no concrete plans for the implementation of the withdrawal were communicated by September also indicates that the plan could remain without implementation, Hodges said in an NPR interview.

A Fox News reporter claims to have learned that the idea of ​​troop withdrawal first came from Richard Grenell, who was the US ambassador to Germany until June 1 of this year. Accordingly, the withdrawal is a reaction to Merkel's decision not to travel to the G7 summit in Washington "in view of the pandemic situation" at the end of June.

Grenell had previously said in an interview with Bild that US taxpayers no longer wanted to pay for the security of other countries.

The analyst Alexander Luck from the Foreign Policy Research Institute believes that the German refusal to participate in a mission in the Persian Gulf could have played a role.

What arguments do the opponents of the withdrawal plans have?

Opponents of the withdrawal plans underline the importance of US troops for US national security and for NATO. Germany is considered the global hub for US military in the world. In addition, the stationing in Germany vis-à-vis Russia is strategically placed.

The US has just invested billions in expanding its military presence in Germany. The Ramstein Air Force Base is the largest of its kind outside the United States, as is the military hospital in Landstuhl.

If a third of the US troops are withdrawn, these facilities will not be able to operate as before, believes NATO specialist Thomas Wiegold.

The foreign policy spokesman for the CDU / CSU parliamentary group, Jürgen Hardt, said in a press release that Trump's decision would weaken the interests of the US and NATO, and it would also continue to burden the transatlantic relationship.

What should happen to the soldiers?

Trump wants to limit the number of soldiers stationed in Germany to 25,000 according to the plans. According to Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, some of the withdrawn military could be relocated to the neighboring country to the east. There were talks between Warsaw and Washington about this.

Other voices believed that the troops could be relocated back to the US or partially to the Indo-Pacific.

What does the deduction mean for Germany?

Around 12,000 non-US Americans are employed in the US bases, and the infrastructure of the cities has often adapted to the communities. Hardt criticized the US government using "a strategic troop presence as a threat to enforce political decisions in other areas such as energy policy."

However, according to Hardt, the effects for the USA are worse than those for Germany. "Because the locations in Germany are an important hub for logistics, medical care and the command structure of the US armed forces worldwide."