Thoughts On The Planned Reduction Of US Troops In Germany

There has been a considerable amount of speculation and debate concerning the recently announced plan to reduce the number of US troops stationed in Germany by half. On one side is the almost customary argument that such a move will weaken NATO, strengthen Russia’s military position, and generally have a negative effect on American national security. We have seen and heard this argument presented a multitude of times since the 90s. It has never really held water, at least not to the level that its proponents would be satisfied with. A second argument being made loudly these days, especially by President Trump’s detractors, is that the planned withdrawal is a politically motivated move. Well, it was partly, and the Trump administration has made no bones about it. The fact is that one of the main reasons for this troop reduction is Germany’s failure to meet NATO’s defense spending goals. In 2014 NATO set a standard for its member-states to halt defense budget cuts and begin moving back towards spending 2% of their GNP by 2024. President Trump has said himself that until Germany pays more for its own defense, US troop levels will be reduced. He has left open the possibility of reversing the reduction plan if Germany starts to devote more money towards its military. To add insult to injury at least half of the troops set to be removed from Germany will find new homes in other European nations from Belgium, and Italy to Poland.

The mention of Poland brings up a third argument, and one that I personally stand behind. The US move is the latest component in what has been a consistent trend towards Eastern Europe for the US military. Deterring Russia has become a top priority for the US, and NATO in recent years. As a result, more US units are being based in Eastern Europe, right now mainly on a rotational basis however there are also permanent bases being constructed, and opened in places such as Romania, and Poland. So it makes sense to move troops, units, and facilities from Germany to Eastern Europe where the combat units will be better able to conduct their mission of deterring Russia, and support elements will be nearer to those combat units.

I have wanted to discuss this topic since the Pentagon made the first announcements about a possible troop reduction in Germany back in June. Unfortunately, Asia has been receiving the lion’s share of geopolitical focus lately. But with July coming to a close, and the subject receiving some attention from the media in recent days, I felt this was an opportune time to get some of my thoughts on the matter written up and placed out there for consumption. 😊

INF Jitters Materialize

654546465

The uncertain future of the INF Treaty is causing concern, and alarm in media, political, and diplomatic circles across the globe. For months now, the Trump administration has been voicing its concerns about violations of the treaty by Russia with its deployment of the SS-CX-7/SS-CX-8 Screwdriver ground-launched cruise missile. Two days ago, the administration announced that if Russia does not fall back into compliance with the terms of the treaty within sixty days, the United States will begin withdrawing from the INF Treaty. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the formal announcement on Tuesday, and it appears that the ultimatum is being supported by NATO.

Critics of the Trump administration, the Russian government, and anti-nuclear organizations were quick to react to the news, as were other parties. The greatest fear at the moment seems to be that relegating the treaty to the dust bin of history will inevitably spark a new arms race. Leaving the treaty intact, according to many observers, will deter Russia to continue developing new intermediate range missiles. While this argument does have merit, it neglects the fact that Vladimir Putin has been developing new missiles, and updating some already in service for quite some time now.

On the other side of the coin is the argument that if Russia is intent on building these weapons, the United States should be building them too. Failing to keep up with Russian advances in the missile field only serves to harm US national security, and leaves the US military at a sharp disadvantage. It would be wise for all parties to remember that the INF Treaty came into being in the 80s because of the existence of a very modern, and capable US intermediate nuclear force. Moscow had great respect for the Pershing II, and Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) systems being fielded in Western Europe by the United States at the time. The Soviets took a look at the balance of power in Central Europe at the time and concluded that a treaty was in their best interests.

In short, Gorbachev and the Soviets were motivated by US military strength, and the political resolve behind it. This is what led to the INF Treaty being signed more than any other factor.

Maintaining the INF Treaty now, without penalizing Russia, allows them to continue developing systems like the Screwdriver without penalty. It also confines the US military from developing and fielding similar systems, thus giving Russia a clear advantage in a crucial area of weaponry.

60 days is a long enough period of time for a compromise to be reached by both sides, yet if Russia is unwilling to abide by the terms of the treaty, it is in the best interests of the United States to leave the treaty and begin developing new intermediate nuclear-capable cruise, and ballistic missiles.