German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stressed on Tuesday the “importance” of the presence of American forces in Germany for the security of the United States and Europe alike, the day after US President Donald Trump announced his intention to cut this military presence in half.
“We believe that the American presence in Germany is not only important for Germany’s security, but also for the security of the United States, especially for Europe’s security,” Mas said during a visit to Poland.
Trump said Monday that the American force deployed in Germany, which is the mainstay of the US contribution to NATO, numbering 52,000, is “a heavy cost to the United States”.
However, according to the US Department of Defense, there are only 34 to 35,000 soldiers permanently deployed in Germany, and the rotation of units means that the total number cannot exceed 50,000 soldiers only temporarily.
“Germany is in arrears, it is years in arrears, and it owes billions of dollars to NATO and they have to pay,” Trump said, describing Germany as a “deficient” country.
“We protect Germany with arrears, which is ridiculous,” he added.
Haikou Mas stressed in this regard during a visit to Warsaw that Berlin has not received details of the history and how to reduce the number of US forces.
“The US State Department and the Pentagon could not provide any information in this regard,” he said, adding that any changes to the security architecture in Europe “definitely need research”.
The topic will be discussed on Wednesday during the video meeting of NATO defense ministers.
“It is a bilateral agreement between Germany and the United States, but the issue is important to NATO,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday.
Without commenting on Trump’s criticism of Germany, he defended his demand for a better sharing of defense spending, saying that “more needs to be done before reaching 2% of GDP” that all NATO countries have pledged to allocate for their military expenditures by 2024.
Trump’s comments and attacks on Berlin escalated tensions between Washington and its European allies in NATO.
“Germany has been described five times as a neglected country,” said a European diplomat, denouncing the US president’s accusations.
US forces have been stationed in Germany since the end of World War II, but they have gained new importance in light of Russian military ambitions under President Vladimir Putin.
There was a cautious reaction from Moscow on Tuesday, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a press conference, “As far as relations between the United States and Germany are concerned, we do not want to issue our own assessment”.
On the other hand, France renewed its call for greater “strategic independence” for Europe within NATO in the face of the American retreat.
“The developments compel us Europeans to affirm our strategic independence within the alliance to ensure our own security,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Laudrian said in an interview to be published in the newspaper La Croix on Wednesday.
Heiko Maas received support from his Polish counterpart, Jacek Chabotovic, who announced during a joint press conference, “From our point of view, the American forces in Germany also serve our security.
We would like this presence to continue in Germany”.
While Warsaw has long sought to strengthen the US presence on its soil and hold talks on this issue with Washington, Chabotovich stressed that “these talks have nothing to do with recent US announcements and US-German relations regarding the presence or reduction of American forces in Germany”.
Trump has already boosted the rotation of US soldiers in Poland to 5,500 personnel as part of the NATO response to concerns stemming from Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
After spending decades under Soviet control before 1991, Latvia also welcomed the possibility of American forces deployed in the regions bordering Russia.
“We will welcome greater American engagement in the security of the Baltic states, including the US forces stationed here,” Latvian Defense Minister Artis Papreks told AFP in Riga.
“We hope that some of the forces that the United States intends to withdraw from Germany will remain in Europe,” said Lithuanian President Getanas Nuseda, adding that Lithuania “would be pleased to host American forces regularly”.