PICTURED: The grand scale of Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany captured from helicopter.
WASHINGTON. June 18th, 2020. Congressman Eliot Engels (D – NY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, announced the Maintaining United States National Security Interests in Europe Act, a piece of legislation designed to activate Congress’ power of the purse to prevent any funding from being used to withdraw troops from Germany.
Fifteen days prior, Trump surprised both countries with an announcement that around 9,500 troops would be withdrawn from Germany, citing years of unfulfilled NATO military spending obligations by his allies across the Atlantic.
“Rather than heeding the overwhelming bipartisan rebuke from Congress about this scheme and its catastrophic consequences, President Trump has once again made foreign policy decisions based solely on his absurd affection for Vladimir Putin, a murderous dictator who has attacked America and our allies,” said Representative Engel in an email statement.
In Germany, many right-wing members of parliament felt it was akin to a betrayal, while other political entities further to the left saw it as an opportunity to rid themselves of a tumultuous ally. In the United States the reaction was almost entirely negative outside the cabinet positions, and was met with the responses received whenever there’s a chance of U.S. troop withdrawals in any country – namely concern expressed over national security interests.
“For us Europeans, this is one more wake-up call to take our destiny with regard to security policy more decisively into our own hands,” Johann Wadephul, deputy leader of Chancellor Merkel’s CDU-led caucus group, noted in an email statement at the time.
The Maintaining United States National Security Interests in Europe Act
The Maintaining United States National Security Interests in Europe Act probably doesn’t help itself by using the first four pages to lay out all the reasons why a citizen of the United States might feel a military presence in Germany is detrimental to the well-being of the union.
These include just how vast the American military infrastructure in Europe is, and how Germany is used as a base to pursue the interventions and wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa – fonts of “endless-wars” and a source of frustration and mounting debt for voters
Engels claims in his bill that it is the “sense of Congress that” the United States should “maintain a robust military presence in Germany so as to deter further aggression from Russia or aggression from other adversaries against the United States and its allies and partners…”
The bill would prohibit defense funds to be used to reduce or remove any troops or bases from not just Germany, but any nation in Europe, unless said country submitted a written request or the presidential administration puts forward a plan for Congress to discuss.
Analysis and Opinion
Troop withdrawals could be President Trump trying to look good for re-election, as he ran on a promise of getting out of “bad deals” and that he would stop paying for other countries’ debts to NATO. NATO legislation states that all members should spend at least 2% of GDP on military resources for the alliance, and Trump claims Germany has failed to meet this marker several years running.
Threat of conventional war or conflict with Russia is incredibly unlikely, and any decision by Moscow to trigger article 5 of the NATO charter, concerning mutual defense, would by definition have nothing to do with American forces in Germany, since attacking one NATO country is attacking all of them.
Despite saber-rattling from the State Department after the Russian Federation annexed Crimea, a move the U.S. claims they don’t recognize or accept, nothing has been done to reverse the policy for the Crimeans, even though most of them consider themselves Russian citizens after a plebiscite voted overwhelmingly for independence from Ukraine, not from Russia.
Crimea was given to Ukraine during the days of the USSR, when all three were part of the same nation, even though the small peninsula containing Russia’s only warm-water naval base was the site of a terrible 3-year religious war during the 1800s.
The threat of confrontation with Russia lies in nuclear war – as has been obvious since the nuclear era began. Trump’s withdrawal or disregard for the renewal of treaties like Open Skies and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty represent a much-greater threat to European security – with much of America’s nuclear deterrent stationed there, than tanks or soldiering drills down in the Caucasus.
The most likely cause for Chairman Engel’s sharp rebuke of Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from Germany lies with the ongoing Global War on Terror, and its relation to Israel. Philip Weiss wrote that in 2018, Engel boasted to his 31st consecutively-attended meeting of AIPAC, a right-wing pro-Israel organization, that he sat down with AIPAC to review “every piece of legislation coming out of the Foreign Affairs Committee,” in order to ensure it had Israel’s best intentions at heart.
Reductions in troop numbers in Germany reduces the potential power the United States wields in the Near-East, meaning it harms the national security of Israel, and that is more likely the threat which Engel is concerned about, not Russia.