The Wall Street Journal:
The U.S. military plans to move nearly 12,000 troops from Germany, relocate its major European headquarters to Belgium and send F-16 fighters to Italy to implement President Trump’s decision to shrink the U.S. military footprint in the NATO ally, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday.
In ordering the move last month, Mr. Trump said that it was intended to punish Germany, which he asserted had not spent enough on defense.
But Mr. Esper cast the shift, which will cost billions of dollars and could take years to achieve, as a way to update its efforts to deter Russian aggression.
The plan, Mr. Esper asserted, will cut U.S. personnel in Germany to 24,000 from the current level of 36,000 “in a manner that will strengthen” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and “enhance the deterrence of Russia.”
The U.S. military and allies were caught by surprise by Mr. Trump’s troop withdrawal decision, which was encouraged by Richard Grenell, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany.
Minutes after Mr. Esper and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. John Hyten explained the plans at a briefing, Mr. Trump told reporters outside the White House that the plan could change should Germany pay more of its gross domestic product toward defense.
“We don’t want to be the suckers anymore,” he said. “The United States has been taken advantage of for 25 years, both on trade and on the military. We’re protecting Germany, so we’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills. It’s very simple. They’re delinquent. So we’re reducing the force. Now if they start paying their bills…I would think about it.”