President Trump’s recent announcement that the U.S. is reducing U.S. troop levels in Germany by 9,500 has created quite a stir among the defense intelligentsia. I have argued that POTUS was justified in the move – due in part to Germany’s unwillingness to meet its most minimal NATO 2% of GDP defense spending commitments (RELATED: Trump Right to Redeploy U.S. Troops From ‘Delinquent’ Germany).
However, I further argued that to be strategically sound, and not appear to undermine NATO, Trump should redeploy some of those troops forward from Germany to the strong U.S. and NATO ally – Poland.
On Monday, U.S. National Security Advisor, Robert O’Brien explained some of the strategic rationale behind the decision in the Wall Street Journal:
To counter China and Russia, two great-power competitors, U.S. forces must be deployed abroad in a more forward and expeditionary manner than they have been in recent years. This is the main reason the U.S. will reduce its permanently stationed force in Germany from 34,500 troops to 25,000.
The Cold War practice of garrisoning large numbers of troops with their families on massive bases in places like Germany is now, in part, obsolete,” he wrote. “While air bases and logistics hubs remain important, the Cold War-style garrisoning of troops makes less military and fiscal sense than it did in the 1970s.
Several thousand troops currently assigned to Germany may be reassigned to other countries in Europe. Thousands may expect to redeploy to the Indo-Pacific, where the U.S. maintains a military presence in Guam, Hawaii, Alaska and Japan, as well as deployments in locations like Australia. In that theater, Americans and allies face the most significant geopolitical challenge since the end of the Cold War. And the remainder will return to bases in the U.S.
In his WSJ comments, O’Brien also reaffirmed the concerns and issues with Germany’s feeble support for NATO, and made several excellent suggestions on how Germany could do much more to demonstrate its commitment to supporting NATO and deterring Russia.
Berlin still has time to step up and show leadership. The Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline isn’t complete; a German decision to stop the project would strengthen Europe’s energy security. Berlin hasn’t yet selected its 5G telecommunications provider. A trusted European company, such as Nokia or Ericsson, would be safer for this role than China’s Huawei. And Germany can accelerate its plan to harden its defenses, which would more than offset U.S. troop redeployment.
These arguments are sound. We should all applaud O’Brien’s focus on the need to redeploy forces to the Indo-Pacific. This is encouraging and greatly needed. And his case for what Germany needs to do to strengthen its role within NATO is also fair and solid. What we need to hear more about though, is how some of the troops leaving Germany will be forward deployed to Poland.
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda is visiting the White House today. Politico reports that U.S. and Polish officials are finalizing a defense cooperation agreement President Trump and Duda announced last year. Since then, the two countries have established a new divisional headquarters in Poland, led by a U.S. general, and are working to create a combat training center there, as well as plans to support a U.S. armored brigade combat team and a combat aviation brigade. Even deeper defense ties are expected.
That is why POTUS should use this opportunity to announce that, as part of the new U.S.-Polish Defense Cooperation Agreement, the U.S. intends to redeploy some of the US troops leaving Germany forward to Poland.