“It’s like having a stroke, and then a second one in the ambulance,” sighs Stefan Weiler, economic-development chief for Kaiserslautern, in south-west Germany. The city was already battling high debt and the effects of covid-19. Then came Donald Trump’s announcement that America would withdraw 9,500 of its 34,500 troops stationed in Germany. Some 50,000 American soldiers, civil staff and family members live in and around Kaiserslautern. The bases employ 2,700 locals and tens of thousands indirectly, from hotel-owners to parts suppliers. “They’re our neighbours, they rent our houses, our kids play football together,” says Ralf Hechner, mayor of nearby Ramstein-Miesenbach, which adjoins a vast American air base.
This local warmth found a national echo. Over decades dozens of American military bases—concentrated in Germany’s south, the area of post-war American occupation (see map)—have cemented the bond between the nato allies. “I used to get a visit almost every year from the [premier] of Bavaria,” says Jim Townsend, the Pentagon’s former top official for Europe. “We were important to him, and he was important to us.”
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