CNN reports while the caviar and vodka party begins at the Kremlin:
The US is moving forward with President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw nearly 12,000 troops from Germany, a decision that has attracted bipartisan congressional opposition and roiled key allies who see the move as a blow to NATO.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper acknowledged the plan will cost billions to execute when he formally announced the decision on Wednesday from the Pentagon. US defense officials said it will take years to relocate the troops.
The plan to pull US troops from the long-time NATO ally has been met with broad bipartisan opposition amid concerns that it will weaken the US military’s position vis a vis Russia, however the Trump Administration has decided to proceed with the move.
Trump defended the decision Wednesday, saying the troop drawdown was taking place because Berlin was not spending the NATO target of 2% of its GDP on defense and because Germany was taking “advantage” of the US…
As is typical, there’s some confusion: although President Donald Trump says the motive is to punish Germany for their perceived failure to pay for their own defense, Defense Secretary Mark Esper says no, it’s not about punishing one of our closest allies at all:
The Pentagon chief, who previously publicly opposed Trump when he considered deploying the military to quell domestic protests, pushed back Wednesday on recent assertions from the president that the U.S. will withdraw forces from Germany as punishment for being “delinquent” in its “payments” to NATO. That repeated claim from Trump misrepresents a goal the allied countries set in 2014 to each dedicate 2 percent of their own domestic budgets to defense spending by 2024…
Once again we’re left with the choice of believing the President of the United States, or a top-ranking official subordinate to the President who disagrees with him. Although the U.S. will still have significant forces stationed in Germany after these troops depart, and the U.S. is still required to defend Germany and all other members of NATO in the event of attack, there’s no question that Trump’s capricious attacks on these closest of allies have badly damaged America’s once unquestioned leadership of the world’s most powerful military alliance.
The principal beneficiary of infighting within NATO is of course President Trump’s original supporters in Russia, who have along with China been eagerly asserting leadership into the global vacuum left by Trump. Moving these troops out of Germany is not going to lead to Russian tanks rolling across the North European Plain by itself, but it’s bad enough that Republicans and Democrats alike fiercely criticized Trump’s plans back in late June when originally announced.
But not Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado’s man on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee! You can imagine the hue and cry from Gardner that would have ensued had Barack Obama acrimoniously pulled 11,000 troops out of a key NATO ally, but once again Gardner has to keep his head down lest he upset the ever-watchful big boss.
Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, is seeing a return on his investment beyond the best-case scenario.