Donald Trump undoubtedly warmed the cold heart of Russian President Vladimir Putin with news that he intends to remove about one third of the 34,500 U.S. troops stationed in Germany. A “senior U.S. official” disclosed the plan on June 5, the day before the 76th anniversary of D-Day. Germany was on the short end of the Normandy invasion, but has since become a critical strategic partner of the United States. Putin has worked hard to break that partnership.
News of the withdrawal plan came out a week after German Chancellor Angela Merkel declined Trump’s invitation to a G-7 meeting in the U.S. In what was described as a testy exchange, Merkel cited the pandemic as her reason for not wishing to attend, apparently inflaming Trump.
As with a number of Trump’s other foreign policy decisions that have just materialized out of thin air, the troop withdrawal surprised top officials in both countries. Germany had not been consulted or warned of the plan, and it blindsided senior U.S. security officials. Experts on both sides of the Atlantic view the plan, if actually implemented, as a serious threat to NATO and the national security of both Germany and America.
Since Europe rose from the ashes of World War II, the NATO alliance and our strong relationship with Germany have been the foundation of America’s national security. Hundreds of thousands of American troops have trained and served in Germany. It has provided forward operating bases that project American power throughout Europe and into Asia and Africa. Even if Germany did not pay a thin dime for maintenance of the American troop presence, the use of its soil for those bases would be an indispensable asset to the security of our country.
A former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, got it right, saying: “We are in NATO not as a favor to our allies but to assure our own security. We deploy troops to Germany and elsewhere to prevent wars so we do not have to fight them.”
Putin, a former KGB officer, who still dreams of resurrecting the Soviet Union, has tried his absolute best to break up NATO and the U.S. relationship with European countries. He has done so by using Russian energy as a weapon and, more spectacularly, by cyber warfare to spread discord and influence elections in Atlantic alliance countries.
Since becoming U.S. President, Donald Trump has had an inexplicable relationship with Putin. Had the U.S. Congress not intervened to prevent it, Trump would likely have lifted a variety of sanctions imposed against Russia for annexing Crimea, invading Ukraine, and interfering in American elections. Trump has openly admitted placing higher reliance on Putin’s word than that of U.S. intelligence agencies.
There can be no doubt that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump. The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee found that to be a fact. The U.S. intelligence community has determined that Russia is weighing in to help Trump win re-election.
Putin’s gamble on Trump in 2016 has paid off in spades. Trump has treated our European allies with scorn, much to Putin’s delight. His latest jackpot is the intended troop withdrawal from Germany, although Trump may be talked out of it if there is anyone left in the White House who understands national security. Either way, it is a propaganda victory for Putin. For him, Trump is a gift that keeps on giving.