German officials immediately thwarted the plan. Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, noted in POLITICO that the move would weaken the NATO alliance and reduce the effectiveness of the US military against Russia and the Middle East.
“I stand by my point of view: Reducing US troops is not in the interests of Germany or NATO security – and it does not make geopolitical sense for the US,” Peter Beyer, the German government’s transatlantic relations coordinator, said on Twitter. “We need more cooperation to master the future.”
U.S. lawmakers on both sides criticized the move in June after initial reports surfaced. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) Quickly condemned the move on Twitter Wednesday.
“Our strength levels have dropped in Europe, for good reason, over the years. But we always make troop adjustments in consultation with Germany and NATO. Trump is doing this in a strong mind. Apparently only to embarrass Germany, “he tweeted. “No plan. No consultation. Making it a really bad idea.”;
The plan includes moving the US European Command headquarters and that of the European Special Operations Command from Germany to Belgium, said EUCOM Commander General Todd Wolters. In the future, the headquarters of the African American Command and the African Special Operations Command may move from Germany to a new location, he said.
Esper and other senior officials argued that the new approach of deploying more rotating forces, compared to troops permanently stationed abroad, would strengthen deterrence against Russia, improve the readiness of deployed forces and ensure a more presence flexible, “stable”, especially in the Black Sea and southeast of NATO.
“Our US EUCOM strategy calls for more and more speed in our efforts and better behavior,” Wolters said. “This reorganization allows us to favorably prevent ourselves against Russia, assist NATO, strengthen the alliance, improve Secretary Esper’s strategic flexibility, and improve EUCOM’s operational flexibility.”
Many of the 6,400 troops returning to the U.S. will begin to perform rotational deployments. The 4,500 members of the Second Cavalry Regiment in Germany will return to the US while other Stryker units begin rotations in the Black Sea region. Of the 5,600 troops in Germany that will be stationed elsewhere in Europe, approximately 2,000 will go to Belgium to do the headquarters work. Another 2,500 aircraft currently scheduled to land in Germany from the UK will stay in the UK. A combat squadron and elements of a combat arm will be sent to Italy.
Once Warsaw signs a defense co-operation and cargo sharing agreement, the US will also rotate a major military unit in Poland, Esper said. There may be additional opportunities to relocate forces to Poland and the Baltic in the future, he said.
There are currently no plans to transfer any of the troops to the Indo-Pacific, Esper said, despite being selected in June by national security adviser Robert O’Brien who played that opportunity.
However, the move “should send a clear, incomprehensible message to our competitors,” said Deputy Chief Executive Officer General John Hyten. “While we hope that Russia and China will engage in more productive and cooperative behavior in the future, we are positioning our forces to deter aggression and combat their malignant influence.”
Hans Joachim Von Der Burchard and Max Cohen contributed to this report.