Opinion

Why Germany “Deserves” American Troops

They’re there to keep America, not just Germany, safe.

American C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft
Two American C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft fly in formation over Germany, May 27, 2014 (USAF/Jordan Castelan)

Victor Davis Hanson writes in National Review that Germany “cuts deals with Russia, has never met its NATO commitment and is the most anti-American nation in Europe.” So why, he wonders, should the United States anchor its defense?

He could have asked that question at any point in the last seventy years.

The more things change…

Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik, which involved direct negotiations with the Soviet Union to normalize relations between East and West Germany, was initially viewed with apprehension in Washington before Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger realized it could advance their own policy of détente.

We don’t have consistent polling data to know if postwar Germany was always the most America-skeptic of NATO allies, but there were huge demonstrations against Ronald Reagan and the placement of cruise missiles in the 1980s.

Germany spent more than 2 percent of its GDP on defense during every year of the Cold War but hasn’t met the NATO threshold since reunification. (Which is estimated to have cost the equivalent of €2 trillion.)

So what’s new? Germany is building another private gas pipeline to Russia, called Nord Stream 2, which bypasses Central and Eastern Europe and is sanctioned by the United States, and American president Donald Trump is pulling 12,000 troops out of Germany, reducing America’s deployment in the country by a third.

Wrong question

Whether or not Germany “deserves” American troops, as Hanson puts it, is the wrong question.

America doesn’t keep soldiers in Germany to do the Germans a favor. Germany never asked for American troops, nor have they always been popular. They’re there to keep America, in addition to Germany, safe.

  • Bases in Germany serve as launching pads for military operations in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. (Unlike Turkey, which has refused the United States use of NATO bases for missions it does not support, Germany has never imposed restrictions, even when it opposed the Iraq War.)
  • Germany has the closest medical center to treat wounded soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq: Landstuhl Regional.
  • Troops stationed in Germany regularly train with Israel’s and are ready to come to Israel’s defense.

Germans can be pacifist to a fault, thinking that if they don’t threaten others, others won’t threaten them. Their naiveté about Russia can be equally infuriating. But that’s no reason for America to shoot itself in the foot.

2 comments

  1. And let’s not forget the reasons for the US to oppose Nord Stream II.
    It forces Russia to supply their gas via American proxies, the Ukraine and Poland, and providing the last two with transit fee income. That does two things, it makes Russian gas more expensive and hence American LNG exports to Europe competative when it wouldn’t be otherwise. And the fee income provided to the Ukraine and Poland strengthens their economy and allows them to buy American weapons and fighters both benefiting the US military industry while strengthening the closer military front against Russia.
    What Nord Stream II IS NOT is about making Europe more dependent on Russian energy. The energy market is flexible and wide open, Europe with the right storage capacity can buy energy from any source available.
    Just saying…..

  2. The transit fees are fairly small relative to the size of the Polish and Ukrainian economies. Those countries are, however, very dependent on Russian oil and gas. Russia has demonstrated in the past that it is willing to turn off supplies for geopolitical ends. Nord Stream 2 makes that easier. It can (threaten to) turn off oil and gas supplies to Central Europe while continuing to supply Western Europe, thus dividing the EU. I think Russia’s goal here is pretty transparent.

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