The US military has unveiled plans to pull some 12,000 troops out of Germany.
The planned withdrawal, which was announced on Wednesday, is widely seen as a fallout from President Donald Trump’s long-simmering row with the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
Last month, Mr. Trump declared his intention to cut by about a third the 36,000-strong US troop contingent in Germany. He accused the close US ally and co-NATO member-state of failing to meet the North Atlantic alliance’s defense spending target, insisting that it had taken advantage of Washington on trade.
“We don’t want to be the suckers any more,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday about the decision.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper sounded less hawkish, when he said the US military’s plan was aimed at preventing the troop movements from undermining the NATO alliance and its efforts to deter Russian aggression, following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
In remarks likely to anger Moscow, Mr. Esper hinted that some US troops would reposition to the Black Sea region and some could temporarily deploy in waves to the Baltics.
Under the plan, other American forces leaving Germany would permanently move to Italy. Also, the US military’s European headquarters would relocate from Stuttgart, Germany, to Belgium.
In total, just under 6,000 troops of the 12,000 leaving Germany are expected to remain in Europe. Many of the other forces will be based in the US, but will rotate into Europe for temporary deployments without their families.