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Nearly half of Germans support withdrawal of US troops: survey

  • August 04, 2020

Nearly half of people in Germany are in favor of a US plan to withdraw nearly 12,000 of its troops from the European country, according to a representative survey by the research institute YouGov shared Tuesday. 

Some 47% of survey respondents said they supported reducing the number of US soldiers in Germany. One in four was in favor of all US soldiers leaving.

Just 28% thought the number of US troops should remain the same and only 4% were in favor of increasing their numbers. 

Read more: US military in Germany: What you need to know

Another 21% declined to answer. 

The YouGov online survey took place between July 31 and August 3, 2020 and was commissioned by German news agency dpa, who published the results. 

Some 36,000 US troops are currently stationed in Germany.

Parliament largely opposed

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper last week announced that his country would withdraw nearly 12,000 soldiers currently stationed in Germany. 

Around 6,400 of them will go back to the US while another 5,600 will be relocated to other European NATO member states, Italy and Belgium in particular. 

Of Germany’s six parliamentary groups, five oppose US troops leaving Germany. Only the country’s left-wing die Linke Party — which supports a complete withdrawal of all US troops — is in favor of the move.

Voters and politicians clash 

Voter opinion, however, tended to differ from that of the parties they support. 

People who generally vote for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU were largely against the troops leaving, with more than 40% opposed. 

Among supporters of all other parties, the majority was in favor of the withdrawal, to varying degrees.

  • Trump shakes hands as he visits Ramstein Air Force Base (Reuters/J. Ernst)

    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.

  • US tanks at Checkpoint Charlie 27.10.1961 (picture-alliance/dpa)

    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.

  • US soldier Elvis Presley waving out of a train in Bremerhaven (picture-alliance/dpa/L. Heidtmann)

    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.

  • US military policeman standing on street of US army residential area in Wiesbaden-Erbenheim Europa-Hauptquartier der US-Armee (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Dedert)

    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.

  • US soldiers dancing with German women (Getty Images/Hulton Archive/Keystone/F. Ramage)

    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.

  • Helicopter taking off in Vilseck/Grafenwöhr in 1969 (picture-alliance/K. Schnörrer)

    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.

  • Military convoy guarding the transport of Pershing-II rockets in 1983 (picture-alliance/dpa)

    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.

  • Gerhard Schröder and George W.Bush going separate ways in 2005 (picture-alliance/dpa/dpa_pool/A. Altwein)

    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.

  • Planes take off from the US air base at Ramstein (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Roessler)

    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


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