A third of the around 36,000 US soldiers in Germany should leave the country as soon as possible – according to President Trump’s announcement in June. But so far the units have not been relocated. The US election on November 3rd could even reverse the decision.
The planned withdrawal of around a third of US soldiers from Germany has not started more than four months after the announcement by US President Donald Trump. The command center for the US armed forces in Europe (Eucom) in Stuttgart announced that the preparation still needed time. “The planning is done at the highest levels and takes a lot of considerations into account. This will take time,” read the written reply. A total of around 12,000 of the 36,000 soldiers stationed in Germany are to be withdrawn. A good half is to be brought back to the USA, 5600 are to be relocated to other NATO countries.
According to Eucom, the soldiers will be kept informed of the plans. “At this point, however, we have no further details to offer and we cannot speculate about timetables.” The Federal Government’s coordinator for transatlantic relations, Peter Beyer, also confirmed that the march has not yet begun. “As far as I know, the US Army in Germany has not yet received any specific orders regarding the detailed implementation of the troop reduction,” said the CDU politician.
The planned withdrawal of US military units from Germany would hit three locations in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate particularly hard:
- Stuttgart: The two command centers for the US troops in Europe and Africa are to be relocated from the capital of Baden-Württemberg to Mons in Belgium.
- Vilseck: 4500 soldiers are to be brought home to the USA from the Bavarian location at the huge Grafenwöhr military training area in Upper Palatinate.
- Spangdahlem: A squadron with around 20 F16 fighter jets including crew, mechanics and support staff is to be relocated from the air force base in the Rhineland-Palatinate Eifel to Italy.
It was originally expected that at least the first soldiers would be withdrawn before the US presidential election on November 3rd. Trump had announced the withdrawal of a large part of the approximately 36,000 US soldiers in Germany on June 15 and justified it with the fact that Germany’s defense spending was too low in his view. Six weeks later, Trump’s Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, presented the details of the troop withdrawal, making it clear that the plans should be implemented “as soon as possible.” The first soldiers could leave the country “within weeks”, it was said at the time. It has now turned into months.
Biden election victory as a turning point?
In Berlin, too, it was firmly expected that the first steps in the withdrawal of troops would take place before the election. However, the federal government was hardly involved in the planning by the US allies from the start. When the Left MP Alexander Neu asked whether she was aware of troop relocations that had already taken place or would be planned for the next few months, she only replied with the short sentence: “The Federal Government has no relevant information.” This is reinterpreted as evidence of the poor state of German-American relations: “If this is actually the case, it would speak volumes about the strained relationship.”
Even if there is already a rough or specific schedule for the first steps in the withdrawal process, it could be thrown overboard again depending on the outcome of the election. This is what Berlin hopes in the event that Trump loses the election. “I definitely see a chance with President Biden that this matter will be revised,” says the Union’s deputy parliamentary group leader, Johann Wadephul. Transatlantic coordinator Beyer is not so optimistic: “I am convinced that the topic will remain with us even if Joe Biden wins the election,” he says. “Even Biden wouldn’t stop the troop reduction entirely.”