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June 11, 2020

It’s Time to Move Troops From Germany

President Trump announced some major changes, and there are good reasons for it.

The usual suspects are howling about President Donald Trump’s decision to move as many as 9,500 American troops out of Germany. The thing is, this has been long overdue on multiple counts. Our basing in Germany is, in some ways, a relic of the Cold War.

The Cold War is over, but the resurgent Russian threat means we still need troops in Europe. But Germany is no longer on the front lines, so to speak. The front has moved east, to Poland, Hungary, and Romania. Just for that reason, it makes a lot of sense to relocate the forces.

It makes sense for another reason. Germany has not exactly been keeping up its end of the NATO bargain. It’s nowhere close to meeting the requisite threshold of spending 2% of GDP on defense. The German military has also had some very serious problems — see, for instance, its bad biofuel experience that grounded its Tornado strike jets.

There’s a reason President Trump called out Germany. Its military readiness was such an issue that a couple of year ago, it was an open question if the Germans could fulfill a major NATO mission. There was also the matter of offering Russia geopolitical kompromat via a gas pipeline.

But those reasons are secondary to the major rationale: Poland is arguably the front line. Therefore, American troops should be permanently based there, not in Germany. There were elements of six divisions in Germany during the Cold War. Today, there is one Stryker unit, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Germany, with a combat aviation brigade. Then there’s the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy.

We’ve called for a much larger Army. One of the big reasons for this, even as we note the concern the Founders had about standing armies, was the need to not only deter the Russians from starting a war — or quickly ending said war in our favor should Vladimir Putin do something stupid — while also keeping an eye on other potential foes, like Iran, North Korea, and China.

It’s well past time for United States military deployments to reflect the reality of both likely battlefields (including Poland) and the political reality (Germany’s inability to meet its NATO obligations). Again, deployments that reflect reality may be expensive in terms of money, but they could very well prevent a war that would cost not just money but the lives of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

America should go for the real bargain.

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