June 26, 2020

Donald Trump’s baffling proposal to withdraw troops from Germany

Featuring Jim Townsend

Source: The Economist

“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.”

Read the full article and more in The Economist.

Authors

  • Jim Townsend

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Transatlantic Security Program

    James Joye Townsend Jr. is an adjunct senior fellow in the CNAS Transatlantic Security Program. After eight years as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for European ...