Defense Department officials announced a plan to remove nearly 12,000 troops from Germany, Defense One reported Wednesday.
Under the plan, 5,600 troops will be moved to other NATO countries, while 6,400 other troops will return to the United States, cutting America’s footprint in Germany by nearly 33 percent. Repositioning the contingent is expected to raise costs by several billion dollars, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said.
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"I am confident that the alliance will be all the better and stronger for it," Esper told reporters. "We can see some moves begin within weeks."
The move comes shortly after four German states signed a letter imploring Congress not to allow the repositioning of American troops. The American forces "form the backbone of the U.S. presence in Europe and NATO's ability to act," the letter reads.
The White House announced the move after repeated demands that Berlin pay a larger share of security costs for NATO. The largest economy in Europe, and fourth largest in the world, Germany puts forth only 1.36 percent of its GDP toward defense costs, compared with Washington’s 3.42 percent.
"Germany is delinquent," President Donald Trump said Wednesday.
Some in the GOP condemned the move as an abandonment of NATO allies, saying it strengthens Russia during a time when Moscow has opportunistically flexed its muscles.
"This is a matter of extraordinary significance to American foreign policy," Senator Mitt Romney (R., Utah) warned in a Senate floor speech last week. He said Congress should give due consideration to "this vital provision of our support for our friend, Germany, of our support for our interests in NATO, the interest of our military, as well as our desire not to give Russia a gift particularly at a time when America has been silent as Russia has been supporting the Taliban and potentially even paying hostages to kill Americans."