President Donald Trump said he plans to cut the number of U.S. troops stationed in Germany to 25,000, until Angela Merkel’s government increases its defense spending.
“Germany’s delinquent. They’ve been delinquent for years,” he told reporters at the White House on Monday in the first official confirmation of a move that was reported earlier this month. “They owe NATO billions of dollars and they have to pay it.”
“Until they pay,” Trump added, “we’re removing a number of our soldiers, by about half.”
Trump has had a tense relationship with Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, and long complained that the country doesn’t contribute enough to Europe’s defense. The country does not meet a NATO target that calls for members of the alliance to spend at least 2% of gross domestic product on defense.
Trump repeated a complaint about German purchases of energy from Russia as the U.S. continues to oppose the Nordstream 2 pipeline intended to provide Russian natural gas to Europe.
He also said that Germany treated the U.S. “very badly” on trade. He added that his administration is negotiating with the European Union on trade, “but right now I’m not satisfied with the deal they want to make.”
The U.S. troop strength in Germany has dwindled to about 34,500 from a peak of 274,000 during the 1960s, but the numbers can vary widely depending on military exercises and troop transfers. In his comments Monday, Trump estimated the U.S. presence at about 52,000, a figure that may include Department of Defense civilian employees.
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