U.S. May Move Thousands of Troops in Germany to Asia Pacific to Counter China-Report
Thousands of the United States’ troops stationed in Germany may be realigned to bases in Asia Pacific, ostensibly to counter the "two great power competitors of China and Russia.”
Multiple reports claim the troop redeployment is imminent based on an opinion piece written by U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien published in the Wall Street Journal in late June.
The piece followed an announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump that he was planning on downsizing American troops in Germany from 34,500 to 25,000, accusing the European country of “being delinquent for years” in its commitment to spend two percent of its GDP on defense spending.
“And they owe NATO billions of dollars, and they have to pay it,” Trump said. “So we're protecting Germany, and they're delinquent. That doesn't make sense.”
In the WSJ opinion piece, O’Brien said the troops leaving Germany may either be reassigned to Europe, return to the United States, or moved to places in the Indo-Pacific region. The Americans currently have a military presence in Guam, Hawaii, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and rotational deployments to countries like Australia.
“In that theater, Americans and allies face the most significant geopolitical challenge since the end of the Cold War,” O’Brien wrote of the Indo-Pacific theater. The statement is a clear reference to the rise of China as an economic and military superpower in the region.
Beijing reported an official defense budget of about $178 billion last year. However, independent studies have found that the actual number is much more than that. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimates actual spending to have been around $261 billion, according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS).
“The Cold War practice of garrisoning large numbers of troops with their families on massive bases in places like Germany is now, in part, obsolete,” he added. “While air bases and logistics hubs remain important, the Cold War-style garrisoning of troops makes less military and fiscal sense than it did in the 1970s.”
Should the Trump administration follow through with its plans to relocate troops to Asia Pacific, it will inevitably abide by a policy set forth by former President Barack Obama. In 2011, his administration announced a high-profile policy shift of pivoting to Asia following the end of the war in Iraq and the relative easing of troop deployments in Afghanistan.
Analysts have said the U.S.’s focus on the Middle East directly led to a leadership vacuum in Asia Pacifc that contributed to China’s rise in the region.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, U.S. military presence in Asia Pacific is down to 131,000 as of 2018, versus 184,000 in 1987. But those figures are far less extreme than the decline from 354,000 to 66,000 troops in Europe during the same time frame.
But the U.S. Congress is already moving to block Trump’s plan, with a bipartisan group of senators led by Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney proposing an amendment to the Senate’s version of the annual defense policy bill that would freeze troop numbers in Germany.