Image: Michael George Haddad, NYT
President Trump has had the objective of drawing down troops in Europe since the beginning of his presidency. Now, as we enter the summer of 2020, it appears, as he is talking about ordering troops into our cities, he is looking to open the back door for Vladimir Putin in Europe.
Trump has called for a 25% reduction in troops in Germany. This would be a major shift in American foreign policy, changing our national security posture moving forward.
Germany has the largest economy in Europe, spends more than any other nation on its military and defense, and is a strong NATO ally. It is the strength of Germany and its leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, that might be a trigger for our Commander-in-Chief, not to mention her gender.
As President Trump continues to weaken American presence and power abroad, there are a few questions on the mind of this American.
What does America receive for a 25% cut in American troop presence in Germany?
- It is unlikely to be a budgetary savings for America.
- After 9/11, Germany was shown to offset American military costs in country by a 1/3.
- President Obama and continued under President Trump, steady pressure has NATO allies steadily increasing their military and defense spending.
Certainly, these trends began before American budget sequestration in 2011, but ongoing military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria may have played a role as well.
Many will say that the price tag for maintaining our European military and defense presence is too high. We should be spending that here at home.
Certainly, there will always be an argument from someone wanting to take money from one column and moving it to another column, making it easier to avoid any attempt to understand that what supports the first column may allow for the other column to stand.Tweet
Is there any strategic value in American troop withdrawal?
Besides Japan, we have no higher troop presence and direct American connection to a country on the planet.
Poland wants a $2 billion American military base. Western Europe is against that because it would upset Russia.
Guess which country and what peninsula had no American base? Ukraine and Crimea.
Why would Poland want to spend $2 billion to bring America closer to the front door of Russia? They are concerned about what is happening to Ukraine directly to their southeast and about strains and other signs within Belarus to their east.
Our Ambassador to Poland even may have tipped the hand (made a mistake) for the Trump Administration by suggesting moving our nukes from Germany to Poland last month. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/05/18/us-nukes-in-poland-are-a-truly-bad-idea/Tweet
Most Americans don’t know where Crimea, Belarus or Poland are on a map; don’t understand the European natural gas issue; and have no concept of what we actually do in any of these ally countries. That is what makes it so easy for Trump to play politics with American long term strategic interests.
All Trump has to do is say how Germany is disrespecting America, call Merkel names, say he’s acting tough, and his flock and the enablers in Congress will back him up throughout his time in the Oval Office.Tweet
Regardless of the reason for American European troop drawdown, the consequences are profound and extremely costly in the short and longterm.
We know that Russia seized an opportunity to seize Crimea from the Ukraine because Ukraine did not have NATO protection. It isn’t just a land grab, after all. The Crimea represents a major strategic port that expands Russian naval and air power far into the Black Sea, giving it ease of access to the Middle East, Mediterranean and the Balkans.
Initially, Russia capitalized on corruption within Ukraine. President Trump also unsuccessfully attempted to insert Ukrainian corruption into the 2020 presidential race. Currently, Congressional Republicans are trying to reinsert it as they did with Benghazi and the emails with Hillary Clinton ahead of 2016.
Both corruption and election machinations have distracted Washington and America from seeing the Russia threat inside Ukraine clearly, since before Trump. With COVID-19 and George Floyd protests, now Putin can capitalize on Trump’s unilateral decisions that are based more on his emotional impulses focused on reelection that have nothing to do with long term strategic objectives for America.
Additionally, Congress is distracted with COVID-19 infighting, facing a presidential election, 13.3% unemployment and a distracted public that is sheltering in place, protesting in the streets, working essential jobs, or transitioning back into employment. (If you are still reading and I didn’t cover your category, let me know.)
Since Russian annexation of Crimea, American troop withdrawals from Europe are sending the message that Putin’s territorial aggression in Eastern Europe means America will turn tail on allies and retreat.Tweet
After two decades of importing terrorism, Europe is moving backward toward the current American model of terrorism, one that is predominately white, nationalist and vile. German neo-Nazis have even been training inside Russia at training camps. The group involved has been the first white supremacist group that the Trump Administration has labeled as a terrorist organization.
Could it be this designation of this one group was an easy choice for President Trump only as an attempt to embarrass Germany and Chancellor Merkel?
- It was gift-wrapped by Vladimir Putin, after all.
- Putin is training the German neo-Nazis in his country, after all.
- Putin gains from American troop withdrawals from Europe, after all.
Is there anyone else who gains from a 25% drop in American troops in Germany beside Vladimir Putin and Russia?
- It certainly isn’t Ukraine.
- It certainly isn’t our standing in the world.
Let’s find our way forward, demand Congress stop infighting, and make certain that we do not make any decisions in Europe until after this election.
President Trump cannot be trusted.