Congress lawmakers pushed back against news from Secretary of Defense Mark Esper Wednesday that the United States will withdraw 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany’s longtime ally.
In a move spurred by President Trump, who has repeatedly said the NATO member is “delinquent” in their defense accounts, Esper said it was time to “reposition” U.S. forces in Europe. .
Esper stressed that the policy is a move “that will strengthen NATO, [and] strengthens Russia’s deterrence. ”
“As everyone can see, the resettlement of our forces in Europe is a major strategic and positive change, fully in line with the NDS, and consistent with other adjustments that the United States has made to NATO at times. the former, “said Esper.
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Esper’s comments differed from the president on the reasoning behind the policy shift.
“We’re reducing the force because we’re not paying their bills. It’s very simple,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. “They’re delinquent.”
However, this is a bad feature about the way NATO allies contribute to defense spending, critics say.
NATO nations have pledged to dedicate two percent of their gross domestic product to defense by 2024, and in 2019 Germany has moved one and a half percent – although they still have four years to go. meet the promise.
Defense spending figures from 2019 show that only eight of NATO’s 30 members have reached the two percent threshold – a figure agreed by NATO nations in 2006.
Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress voice their frustrations about the military change he calls costly and irresponsible.
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“U.S. troops are not stationed around the world as traffic cops or casual workers – they are suppressing the expansive targets of the world’s worst regimes, mainly China and Russia, “Sen Ben Ben Sasse, R-Neb. said Wednesday.
“The President’s lack of strategic understanding on this issue increases our response time and hampers the important deterrent work that our services and women are doing.”
Epser said the cost of postponing thousands of military and women, along with their families, will be in the range of ‘number one’ billion dollars.
“Maintaining a forward presence is cheaper for our taxpayers and safer for our troops,” Sasse said. “Chairman Xi and Vladimir Putin are neglected – and this withdrawal will only warm them up.”
“We must lead our allies against China and Russia, and not abandon them. Withdrawal is weak,” he added.
The Pentagon claimed that this move would allow more troops to be stationed in Poland, a strategy that would put troops closer to Russia and a long-sought move in Warsaw.
“While some of the proposed steps clearly have merit, other aspects – such as an arbitrary limit to the number of troops stationed in certain countries – remain troubling,” Rep. Mac Thornberry, R, Texas, member of the Home Armed Services ranking. Committee. “It is essential that we consult closely with our NATO allies on any changes.”
Although Esper said Congress had been notified and that any measures it would take forward would be in coordination with Congress, House Armed Services President Adam Smith, D-Wash., Said lawmakers were not notified until after the fact.
“This plan was not drafted in consultation with US allies or military services, but was instead notified by all parties – including Congress – after decisions had already been taken. , “Smith said Wednesday.
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Sen. Jack Jack Reed, D-RI, went after Esper saying it is his job to stay upright with the president in order to protect security interests.
“This is the kind of move that Secretary Mattis has been able to keep standing in the past, but this administration seems to be unfolding under the strain of the pandemic,” he said.
Nearly 4,500 members of the service will return to the United States while the remaining 5,600 members will be spread across Europe in the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, Poland and the Sea Region. the Black.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.