President Donald Trump, apparently surprised to learn (two years on the job) that the United States have around 35,000 troops in Germany, is considering pulling his soldiers out. He has ordered the Defense Department to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of their presence.
Such a study would no doubt find that the benefits outweigh the costs. Those 35,000 troops — down from a Cold War peak of 400,000 — serve American, not German, interests.
What’s in it for the United States
- American bases in Germany serve as launching pads for military operations in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
- Germany has the closest treatment center for wounded soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq: the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
- Moving all forces, together with their families and matériel, to Eastern Europe, where they could more directly deter Russian aggression, would be expensive.
- Dan Shapiro, the former American ambassador to Israel, points out that the troops stationed in Germany regularly train with Israel’s and are ready to come to Israel’s defense.
Don’t let’s be beastly to the Germans
Trump has it in for Germany. Last year, he reportedly presented Chancellor Angela Merkel with a $374 billion bill for contributions it never made to NATO.
Germany does underspend on its defense. But:
- Germany never asked for American troops. It was occupied after World War II.
- The United States discouraged German remilitarization during the Cold War.
This combination, of American protection and German demilitarization, has created a pacifist nation in the heart of Europe — which, given the history of the twentieth century, is something we should be thankful for, not regret.