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Germany’s Bundeswehr to help German states after US pullout

  • July 31, 2020

Germany should do more for its own security, Defense Minister Annagret Kramp-Karrenbauer said as the US plans to drastically cut its troops presence in the European country.

“We are bearing the EU and German interests in mind,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Friday. “It is also true that the good life in Germany and Europe is getting increasingly dependent on how we ensure our security ourselves.”

Earlier this week, the US sketched out a plan to move close to 11,900 troops, or nearly one-third of its total contingent in Germany, out of the country. The move was done on the orders of President Donald Trump, who on Wednesday said the US was pulling out because Germany “was not paying their bills” on defense, alluding to Berlin’s failure to meet NATO’s guidelines on military spending.

While NATO asks its members to invest 2% of their GDP into defense, Germany’s military spending was around 1.38% GDP last year. Trump described Germany as “delinquent.”

NATO statistics show that in 2019 of the 28 alliance members, only the US, Greece, Estonia, the UK, Romania, Poland and Lativa spent over 2% of GDP on defense expenditures.

Read more: SIPRI: Germany significantly increases military spending

German officials criticize the US troop cut and Trump’s tone. In addition to security concerns, the pullout is expected to hit the economy of the towns where the troops are stationed, as many Germans work as civilian staff and contractors for the US troops and rely on American soldiers as customers for their businesses.

Bundeswehr to the rescue?

On Friday, Defense Minister Annagret Kramp-Karrenbauer said she would hold talks after the summer break with the leaders of the affected German states to discuss “how the Bundeswehr can support the affected regions.” She described the US pullout as “regrettable.” It was not immediately clear how the German military would attempt to fill the gap left behind by the US departures.

German lawmaker and senior defense official Thomas Silberhorn told DW that the US troops had “a magnificent job in Germany and Europe” in previous decades.

Read more: Germany urges continued US dialogue after troop pullout

Germany was concerned “not exclusively of a withdrawal of troops, but about the reasoning,” Silberhorn told DW Washington correspondent Ines Pohl.

Silberhorn said, “We understand the argument, the Europeans and in particular the Germans, should do more for security in Europe. But we already do a lot.”

Berlin must “continue a trustful dialogue at a higher level” with Washington, he added.

  • The history of US troops in Germany

    High-ranking visit at Ramstein military air base

    There are almost 35,000 US soldiers stationed in Germany — mostly in the west and south of the country. Nowhere else in Europe are there so many American troops. But now US President Donald Trump wants to change that, withdrawing some 12,000 soldiers from the country. It would be a major test for the military alliance between Germany and the US.

  • The history of US troops in Germany

    From victor to defender

    The American military presence in Germany began at the end of World War II. Along with its allies, the US had liberated Germany from the Nazis. However, their wartime ally, the Soviet Union, soon became an enemy. The tensions between the two sides were demonstrated when US Army and Soviet Union tanks faced off in a divided Berlin.

  • The history of US troops in Germany

    GI Elvis Presley

    The US soldiers also brought American culture to Germany. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, as Elvis Presley would eventually become known, was drafted in as a soldier and began his military service in Germany in 1958. He is seen here waving to his fans at Bremerhaven train station.

  • The history of US troops in Germany

    Building a home

    Over the years the US Army has become firmly entrenched in the German landscape. Dotted around US bases are numerous residential districts for American soldiers and their families, such as this residential district in Wiesbaden-Erbenheim. This often creates barriers to their full integration into German society. The US Army employed 17,000 American civilians in Germany in 2019.

  • The history of US troops in Germany


    Despite separate residential districts, there has always been contact and exchange between German and American families. In the early years, dances were held on the streets of Berlin in summer months and in winter, the US Army organized Christmas parties for local children. And there were the German-American friendship weeks every year.

  • The history of US troops in Germany

    Joint Bundeswehr maneuvers

    The Federal Republic of Germany became an important strategic location during the Cold War. The NATO maneuver Reforger I (Return of Forces to Germany) in Vilseck/Grafenwöhr in 1969 was one of many joint war games held by the US Army and the Bundeswehr. The enemy was the Soviet Union and the other signatories of the Warsaw Pact, including the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany.

  • The history of US troops in Germany

    Dispute over nuclear missiles

    Heavily guarded Pershing-II rockets were brought to the US base in Mutlangen in 1983. The rockets, armed with nuclear warheads, became a political issue. They were touted as filling an important gap in NATO’s deterrent shield against the Warsaw Pact. Peace activists, however, saw them as a threat and held massive demonstrations. Many celebrities joined in the protests.

  • The history of US troops in Germany

    Separate ways on Iraq

    Some 20 years later, US President George W. Bush went to war with Iraq over its alleged program to develop weapons of mass destruction. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, knowing the majority of voters supported him, ruled out Germany’s involvement. That led to deep divisions between Washington and Berlin.

  • The history of US troops in Germany

    Germany stays relevant

    Even if President Trump goes ahead with his threat to withdraw 12,000 American soldiers, Germany would remain strategically important for the US. The Ramstein base is especially significant, since it is also headquarters of the United States Air Forces in Europe. It’s from here that controversial drone missions are flown against targets in Africa and Asia.

    Author: Christoph Hasselbach

dj/sms (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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