The United States will withdraw 12,000 troops from military bases in Germany. Half would return to the United States and the rest would be strategically distributed in the region.

According to the plan announced on Wednesday, July 29, by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, of the 36,000 soldiers currently in Germany, just over 24,000 will remain. Of the nearly 12,000 who will be withdrawn, 5,600 will be relocated to other European countries and the rest will be transferred to different bases in the United States. Esper pointed out that with 24,000 troops in the U.S. service, Germany continues to be the NATO member country that hosts the largest number of troops. 

The 6,400 forces who will return to the United States will not mean less support for our NATO allies, simply that instead of having forces permanently stationed in Germany, other military units will begin rotating deployments further east in more strategic locations, such as near the Black Sea region Esper said.

When asked what the goal of these moves was, Esper said, “These changes will achieve the core principles of improving U.S.-NATO deterrence, strengthening NATO, reassuring allies, and improving U.S. strategic flexibility.”

Several of the forces will go to Italy, while the headquarters of the U.S. European Command and the European Special Operations Command will be relocated from Stuttgart, Germany, to Belgium. Other troops will move east to the Black Sea and Baltic Sea regions.

“We’re moving forces out of central Europe, Germany, where they’ve been since the Cold War,” Esper said. He said that forces will be shifted closer to Russia, “where our newest allies are.” Esper added that some troops may be temporarily deployed to the Baltics.

Extending forces eastward is a clear message to Russia that the United States has not reduced its commitment to the region and is ready to protect Eastern Europe from any aggression by Moscow.

President Trump at a press conference did not hide his anger with the German government and also gave other reasons to explain why the troops were being withdrawn, “Germany is delinquent. They haven’t paid their fees. They haven’t paid their NATO fees.  And they’re way off, and they’ve been off for years, and they have no intention of paying it.  And the United States has been taken advantage of on trade and on military and on everything else for many years, and I’m here and I’ve been straightening it out.”

He added that he might reconsider the decision to withdraw troops from Germany if they start paying their bills again.