US Defence Minister Mark Esper announced plans to withdraw troops from Germany to Washington on Wednesday. Estimates suggest 12,000 troops will be leaving Germany, with half of them returning to America, and the other half heading to Italy. The US also announced it would be moving its European headquarters out of Stuttgart, Germany, to Belgium.
The military plans, which were being outlined today at the Pentagon, follow on from an explosive row between Mr Trump and Ms Merkel over NATO funding.
President Trump has repeatedly accused Germany of not paying its fair share of money to the allied nations.
Germany pays only 1.38 per cent of GPD on NATO compared to the 3.4 per cent paid by the Americans.
No full reason was given for the troop withdrawal, announced in June, but experts linked the move to Mr Trump’s anger towards German policy.
As well as the NATO funding, the US is not happy with Germany’s trade surplus or Berlin’s link up with Russia on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
The withdrawal is an affront to one of the United States’ closest allies and trading partners and is controversial both in the military and in Mr Trump’s own Republican camp, which is gearing up for the November 3 election.
A senior member of Ms Merkel’s conservatives has criticised Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Germany and move Washington’s European headquarters to Belgium.
Norbert Roettgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, told Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper that the move would weaken NATO.
He said: “Instead of strengthening NATO, the troop withdrawal will weaken the alliance,”
“The effectiveness of the U.S. military is not increased but reduced, especially with a view to Russia and ongoing military conflicts in the Middle East.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.
More to follow…