WASHINGTON : US President Donald Trump has defended his decision to pull out almost 12,000 troops from Germany by invoking its gas imports from Russia.
Washington has recently ramped up its efforts to block the deliveries.
“Germany pays Russia billions of dollars a year for energy, and we are supposed to protect Germany from Russia. What’s that all about?” Trump tweeted, shortly after Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the US would move out some 11,900 US soldiers from Germany, as opposed to the initial plan to withdraw some 9,500 personnel.
Trump has also cited the long-running row over NATO contributions, accusing Germany of failing to fork out its fair share of the costs for the military alliance.
“Also, Germany is very delinquent in their 2% fee to NATO. We are therefore moving some troops out of Germany!” Trump added, referring to the alliance’s minimum spending requirement for member states.
In a statement on Wednesday, Esper announced that around 6,400 US troops would return to home soil from Germany, while another 5,600 would be redeployed to other European countries, namely Italy and Belgium. While that leaves a 24,000-strong US contingent in Germany, opponents of the drawdown have fumed over the proposal, blasting Trump for “fracturing a 75 year alliance for no reason.”
The plan did not sit well with the host country as well, with Berlin arguing the withdrawal would deal a blow to NATO’s role in Europe. Contrary to Trump’s claim that the planned pullout would “strengthen” the alliance, enhancing its “deterrence of Russia,” German politicians see it as a move that will only drive a wedge deeper between Berlin and Washington.
“Unfortunately, this puts a burden on the German-American relationship,” said Markus Soeder, the Bavarian Prime Minister and the leader of a party closed allied to Merkel – the Christian Social Union.
The US and Germany have been increasingly at odds due to Washington’s attempts to arm-twist Berlin into abandoning the Nord Stream 2 pipeline initiative. The construction of the energy route was halted last year after the US threatened vessels involved in the project with biting sanctions. Earlier this month, the US stepped up its pressure campaign, saying it would impose sanctions on anyone investing or working on the construction or maintenance of the pipeline in the future.
Germany has so far defied American efforts to bully it into ditching the project, accusing Washington of encroaching on Berlin’s sovereign right to choose its preferred source of energy.
A recent analysis by energy consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie suggested that European consumers would see gas prices plummet by up to 25 percent after Russia starts pumping the blue fuel though the 1,200km underwater route. The completion of the Russian pipeline, however, is projected to cost suppliers of US own liquefied natural gas (LNG) a dime, with the firm saying that “lost revenues for upstream US gas producers could be significant.”