President Trump on Monday confirmed plans to cut the number of U.S. troops in Germany by roughly half.
“We’re putting the number down to 25,000 soldiers,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“Germany’s delinquent,” Trump added. “They’ve been delinquent for years, and they owe NATO billions of dollars, and they have to pay it. So we’re protecting Germany, and they’re delinquent. That doesn’t make sense.”
Germany is not on track to meet NATO’s goal of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense. But it is not “delinquent” to NATO as Trump describes because the spending is not a payment to NATO — it is spending on a country’s own defense — and the goal does not have to be met until 2024.
Trump also raised the issue of trade negotiations with Germany, saying he’s “not satisfied with the deal they want to make.”
“So we get hurt on trade, and we get hurt on NATO,” he said.
Trump’s comments mark the first confirmation after reports surfaced earlier this month that he planned to cut the cap on the number of U.S. troops allowed to be in Germany at any one time from 52,000 to 25,000.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that national security adviser Robert O’Brien signed a directive ordering the cap reduction as well as a drawdown of about 9,500 troops from the 35,000 currently there.
Trump has long pushed NATO members to contribute more to their own defense and has repeatedly taken special aim at Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel.
One of the only countries that hasn’t agreed to pay what they’re supposed to pay is Germany, so I said until they pay, we’re removing our soldiers, a number of our soldiers by about half,” Trump said Monday. “And then when we get down to 25,000, we’ll see where we’re going.”
Trump’s plan to slash the U.S. troop presence in Germany has sparked fierce pushback from GOP defense hawks in Congress, who argue the presence is an integral buttress against Russian aggression.
Last week, 22 Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee wrote a letter to Trump saying they were “very concerned” about the plan.
“We believe that such steps would significantly damage U.S. national security as well as strengthen the position of Russia to our detriment,” the Republicans wrote.
“We strongly believe that NATO allies, such as Germany, should do more to contribute to our joint defense efforts,” they added. “At the same time, we also know that the forward stationing of American troops since the end of World War II has helped to prevent another world war and, most importantly, has helped make America safer.”