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U.S. will shift 12,000 troops from Germany, Pentagon says

Some will move to other NATO countries, and some will come home, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced

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The U.S. Pentagon
The Pentagon building
(Michael Brochstein, Getty)
Updated: July 29, 2020 - 2:30pm

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In a move described as a deterrence to Russia, the United States will pull nearly 12,000 troops out of Germany and move nearly half of them to other NATO countries, the Pentagon announced Wednesday. 

“This will strengthen NATO and improve the operational efficiency and readiness of over 2,000 service members in these headquarters,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at the Pentagon.

The U.S. now has about 34,000 troops stationed in Germany. Of that number, 6,400 will be sent home and roughly 5,600 will be repositioned to other NATO locales such as Belgium and Italy, Esper said.

“As anyone can see, the repositioning of our forces in Europe constitutes a major strategic and positive shift,” and is consistent with the U.S. defense strategy, Esper told reporters. “These changes achieve the core principles of enhancing U.S. and NATO deterrence of Russia; strengthening NATO; reassuring Allies; and improving U.S. strategic flexibility and [European Command] operational flexibility.”

Esper’s announcement came in the wake of comments from President Trump that Germany has not met its financial obligation to allot 2% of its gross domestic product to NATO defense spending.  

“Germany can and should pay more to its defense," Esper said at the briefing. "It should certainly meet the 2% standard and, I would argue, go above and beyond that.”

Some in Congress have resisted the plan to shift U.S. troops out of Germany, citing concerns about security.

In his remarks at the Pentagon, Esper countered that the move will enhance security on the continent.

“We are moving forces out of Central Europe, Germany, where they had been since the Cold War,” he said “We are following in many ways the boundary east, where our newest allies are” in the Black Sea region, Poland, and the Baltics. 

Some of the troop movement will begin within weeks, Esper also said.

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