Trump wants to stop US forces in NATO ally Germany

President Donald Trump said Monday that the number of American troops in Germany would be halved because Berlin was "guilty" of cooperating with NATO and was "badly" treating the United States on trade.

Trump told reporters that 52,000 American troops were stationed in Germany and would be taken to 25 thousand.

"It's a tremendous cost to America," he said. "So we reduced this number to 25,000 soldiers."

According to the Pentagon, Trump's numbers are misleading because only 34,000 to 35,000 U.S. troops remain in Germany. The rotation of units means that the total number is only 50,000 temporarily.

However, the message of the US president to the NATO alliance led by Germany, Europe, and the US is loud and clear.

Much of NATO's traditional defense against the Soviet Union during the Cold War had been kept by American forces in a geopolitically important country since the end of World War II.

The resurgence of Russian military ambitions under President Vladimir Putin has given new significance to American existence over the past two decades, with Central America and Eastern European countries paving the way for stronger American security.

Trump said Germany should punish Germany's inadequate payment for NATO and use the future of the military as a weapon to support trade war threats with the European Union.

"Germany's delinquent, they've been delinquent for years and they owe NATO billions of dollars, and they have to pay it. So we're protecting Germany and they're delinquent. That doesn't make sense," he said.

- The weapon in a trade war? -

Trump has repeatedly accused European NATO members of freeloading by falling short of their commitment to spend at least two percent of GDP on defense and overly relying on the alliance's historic leader -- the United States.

Senior German politicians expressed concern last week about reports the US was planning to cap troop numbers at around 25,000, which appeared to catch Berlin by surprise.

The plan raised fresh questions about Trump's commitment to longstanding cooperation agreements with European allies and the Western military alliance itself.

Trump said Germany, as the economic powerhouse of the European Union, was also to blame because "they treat us very badly on trade."

"We're negotiating with them on that, but right now I'm not satisfied with the deal they want to make. They've cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars over the years on trade, so we get hurt on trade and we get hurt on NATO."

He complained that Germany was profiting from the US troop presence.

"Those are well-paid soldiers. They live in Germany, they spend vast amounts of money in Germany. Everywhere around those bases is very prosperous for Germany. So Germany takes."

Trump has had testy relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the past. A new strain emerged over the last few weeks when she said no to an invitation for a G7 summit in Washington, citing the lingering coronavirus pandemic, which has sharply restricted international travel.

Trump, who is behind in the polls ahead of November presidential elections, had hoped the summit would showcase US leadership. Momentum for the hastily organized G7 petered out after Merkel's refusal and Trump reacted by announcing he'd hold a summit later this year, possibly September.

In a surprise move, the Republican president said he would invite Putin to join in, along with several other non-G7 world leaders, calling the group of seven wealthy, Western allies "outdated."

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