Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- The Trump Administration has announced that 9,500 troops will be returning to the US from Germany amid growing US-Germany tensions. This will leave 25,000 US troops there, which is the new “cap” for maximum troop levels.

The US has been pressuring Germany to increase military spending with the threat of troop withdrawals and now it has happened. Or has it? President Trump has a habit of announcing troop withdrawals, as in Syria and Afghanistan that do not quite happen.

The troops are still nominally there to defend Germany from Russia, even though a number of NATO countries now separate the two countries.

Trump wanted to get Germany to pay more to NATO, and more to the US, as a condition for keeping the troops, and this current cut is likely a prelude to asking for more money. Germany, however, has not been desperate to placate Trump, and may just shrug this off.

Relations are particularly difficult as a result of US sanctions stopping the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic from Russia to Germany.

The pipeline is vital for Germany as it reduces reliance on nuclear power and polluting coal fired plants. It is against US interests because they want to keep Germany and Russia separated. They also want to sell US LNG gas into Europe although it is more expensive.

The US is strongly supported by Poland and the three Baltic States within the EU and Ukraine outside it. Ukraine wants to retain gas traffic across its territory because of the transit fees paid. It is also a convenient lever against Russia because supplies to Europe can be cut off. The Baltic States resist closer German Russian unity for historic reasons and as part of their close relationship with the US. Poland is building LNG facilities and a pipeline to Norway so as not to be dependent on Russian gas.

Among German politicians, there is debate about what the lesson of this drawdown should be. Pro US right wing officials are seeing this as negative, cutting historic ties to the US, and believing it benefits Russia and China.

Die Linke, a German leftist party, are pleased to see US troops leaving, saying the Germans should prepare for a complete US pullout. They added that this will save taxpayers billions.

Outside of Germany, Poland is also looking closely at this. Their hope is that the US will relocate the troops to Poland, with Trump more comfortable with right-wing Poland than center-left Germany.

However the reality of the situation is that in the long run the US cannot afford indefinitely to keep troops in Germany or Europe serving no real military purpose and are happy to use German failure to pay as an excuse to leave. German politicians on the other hand, whatever they say. Are happy to see the US troops leave as it eases the country’s return to real independence.

What the EU and Germany are nervous of is the US moving its thousands of troops to Poland thus dividing Europe, strengthening the idea of the Three Seas Initiative linking the Baltic, the Black Sea and the Adriatic and provoking an inevitable Russian military build-up.

Bringing the troops home is also good electoral publicity for President Trump’s re-election campaign.

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