June 8, 2020 / 11:41 AM / a month ago

U.S. troop plans "shake transatlantic relationship", Merkel ally says

BERLIN (Reuters) - U.S. plans to withdraw troops from Germany “shake the pillars of the transatlantic relationship”, Peter Beyer, the German coordinator for transatlantic ties, told Reuters on Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered the U.S. military to remove 9,500 troops from Germany, a senior U.S. official said on Friday. The move would reduce the U.S. contingent to 25,000. But Germany said it has not received confirmation.

“I don’t want to speculate on something for which I have no confirmation,” Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told a news conference on Monday.

“The fact is, the presence of U.S. troops in Germany serves the entire security of the NATO alliance - so American security too. That is the basis on which we work together.”

Sources in Germany’s governing coalition said Berlin had not received a reply from the U.S. government despite inquiries through various diplomatic channels as to whether the reports were accurate. “This indicates a controversial discussion within the U.S. government,” one government source said.

Despite misgivings about nuclear weapons that the United States is believed to have stationed at a base in Buechel in western Germany, Germans have generally welcomed U.S. troops since World War Two.

The reported U.S. decision, even if not yet confirmed, has shocked policymakers in Berlin.

Beyer told Reuters: “We’re not yet at divorce. But we’re already at a much lower level of cohabitation than before. It’s saddening because what’s happened is not in the German, European or American interest.”

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“We are in a systemic competition with China. But the West is weakening itself,” he said, adding that Chancellor Angela Merkel had not rejected Trump’s invitation to a - now postponed - June G7 summit but rather not yet accepted it due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

The troop move is the latest twist in relations between Berlin and Washington that have often been strained during Trump’s presidency. Trump has pressed Germany to raise defence spending and accused Berlin of being a “captive” of Russia due to its partial? reliance on Russian energy.

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Vice President at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, which promotes U.S.-European ties, said the decision “does smack a bit like revenge”.

Additional reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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