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Washington to withdraw nearly 12,000 military personnel from Germany

(Washington) Pentagon chief Mark Esper announced Wednesday the withdrawal of some 11 00 0 troops from Germany, presenting this project as strategically necessary, to be immediately contradicted by President Donald Trump, who said he was ready to come back on it if Germany increased its financial contribution to NATO.

Sylvie LANTEAUME

France Media Agency

Some 29 500 Soldiers currently deployed in Germany, approximately 6400 will be repatriated to the United States while the 2500 others will be repositioned in other NATO countries, notably Belgium and Italy, the US Defense Minister said during a press conference.

Mr. Esper assured that the objective was strategic, in particular as a deterrent against Russia, but just minutes after his press conference at the Pentagon, Donald Trump explained that this withdrawal was due to Germany's refusal to “pay more “.

“We're tired of being pigeons,” the Republican billionaire said from the White House. “We are reducing our forces because they are not paying. It's very simple “.

Mr. Trump has hinted that this plan could be revised. “If they started paying their bills, I would think it over.”

Even if he assured that the rotations of American soldiers in Europe would be more frequent in the coming years, this project results in a net reduction in the number of American soldiers stationed permanently in Europe.

The project, the cost of which is estimated at several billion dollars, will bring the American military personnel in Germany to around 18 00 0, Mr. Esper said.

Approximately 500 soldiers will be divided between Italy and Belgium.

The American military command in Europe (Eucom), currently based in Stuttgart, will move to Mons, Belgium, where the NATO command is located, which will spare the American general who traditionally heads the two commands from there. -returns between the two countries.

A squadron of fighter planes F – 13 based in Germany will be sent to Italy, more near the Black Sea where they can protect NATO's southeast flank, the defense minister said.

“Major strategic change”

The US military command for Africa (Africom), which is also in Stuttgart, may also move, but no decision has yet been made.

The 2500 soldiers of the US Air Force stationed at the base of Mildenhall, in the United Kingdom, and who were to reposition themselves in Germany , will remain in the UK.

Washington is also considering repositioning forces in Poland and the Baltic States, if an agreement is reached with these countries on their status.

Mr. Esper said the first moves could come in “a few weeks,” but no massive pullouts are expected immediately.

The number two of the American staff, General John Hyten, stressed that the project was only a “concept” for the moment. “Now we have to make a plan,” he added.

“The repositioning of our forces in Europe represents a major and positive strategic change”, assured the head of the Pentagon. “These changes will undoubtedly achieve the core objectives (which are) of raising the level of US and NATO deterrence against Russia, strengthening NATO, reassuring allies and improving flexibility. strategy of the United States ”.

Although their numbers have declined since the Cold War, Germany receives more American soldiers than any other European country, a legacy of the Allied occupation after WWII.

The withdrawal of these American forces could have a significant financial impact for the cities concerned, in particular Stuttgart where the commands for Europe and Africa are located.

“We very much regret the decision of the American government”, declared the head of the regional government of Bavaria, Markus Söder. “The military benefit is not apparent. In the long run, it even weakens NATO and the United States itself, ”he added.

The mayor of Stuttgart Fritz Kuhn regretted this “punitive measure against an ally” and the Minister of the Interior of the regional state of Rhineland-Palatinate, where are based 500 American soldiers, stressed that his region should be prepare for “American job losses” because of this decision.

But Lithuania welcomed the possibility of welcoming more US forces to its soil, where they are currently deployed on rotations. “We have said several times to the United States that we want them to think of Lithuania for a permanent deployment of their forces,” Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis told AFP.

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