Republican lawmakers urge Trump to reconsider Germany troop reduction plan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of House of Representatives Republicans urged President Donald Trump on Tuesday to reconsider his decision to cut the number of U.S. troops in Germany, saying their presence is the backbone of NATO’s deterrent against Russian aggression.

FILE PHOTO: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) speaks at the Capitol Hill National Security Forum at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

The six lawmakers, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee senior Republican Michael McCaul and Representative Adam Kinzinger, said in a letter that the U.S. military footprint in Germany served Washington’s strategic interests beyond Europe and into the Middle East and Africa, which have seen the growing influence of Russia and China.

All six signers are members of the Foreign Affairs committee.

Trump said earlier this month he would cut the number of troops in Germany to 25,000, faulting the close ally for failing to meet NATO’s defense spending target and accusing it of taking unfair advantage on trade.

His plans, which would mean a reduction of about 9,500 troops, immediately drew ire from Democrats and his fellow Republicans.

“This is not the time to take any action that ... might lead our NATO allies and partners to doubt the U.S. commitment to our collective security,” the lawmakers wrote.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawmakers also warned that Moscow and Beijing sought to sow divisions between Washington and its allies, and said they were troubled to see that many U.S. allies had not been consulted on the plans.

Trump accused Germany of being “delinquent” in its payments to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and vowed to stick with the plan unless Berlin changed course. NATO in 2014 set a target that each of its 30 members should spend 2% of GDP on defense. Most, including Germany, do not.

The letter was also signed by Representatives Ann Wagner, Brian Fitzpatrick, John Curtis and Joe Wilson.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis