Trump’s revenge on Merkel


After the unhappy management of the pandemic and the painful reaction to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Donald Trump adds his new extemporaneous initiative to the list and reveals the idea of ​​a reduction of the American military presence in Germany. It was anticipated to the press, and only after five days on the official channels, that it is thought to withdraw 9,500 US troops from German territory, more than a quarter of the 34,674 stationed there according to the latest Pentagon report.

The Berlin government and NATO have fallen from the clouds, Washington has not considered informing them beforehand. In Germany and Brussels, the official silence hides the disappointment of both, together with the desire not to raise the level of confrontation. But it is natural to wonder about the implications of the sudden move by the White House and reflect on the completely unilateral method once again adopted by the President of the United States. The matter is delicate for many reasons and, in a normal world, among allies it would have been the subject of a discreet consultation before disclosing that purpose.

The embarrassment is not felt only on this side of the Atlantic. In the United States, the idea has also been contested in the republican field. Critics include Jim Mattis, Trump’s former defense secretary, and Colin Powell, in addition to the military leaders themselves, such as the former commander-in-chief of US troops in Europe, Ben Hodges, who branded it as “a colossal mistake. “. It is plausible, they say in Washington, that Trump’s move is an irritated reaction against Angela Merkel, who in the previous days had declined the invitation to the G7 in the American capital and forced the president to postpone it: frictions in the not quite idyllic relationship between the two leaders, while the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, publicly admits that the relationship with the United States is “complicated”.

Presented, it seems, without even an opinion from the National Security Council, the White House tenant’s proposal is part of his plan to downsize the presence of US military forces in theaters of greater commitment. Nothing heretical, for heaven’s sake. The point, however, is that, in order not to be counterproductive or jeopardize the interests and security of allies and the United States themselves, those folds must be carefully elaborated and shared. Similar announcements related to the military contingents in Afghanistan and South Korea. Care should be taken not to penalize the Kabul government, engaged in difficult negotiations with the Taliban, or to not give advantages to Kim Jong-un and his bleak regime.

In Germany, from Ramstein to Landstuhl, the stars and stripes military are functional to strategic interests of the USA in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, not only in Europe. Furthermore, once withdrawn, the troops could be partially repositioned in Poland and the Baltic States. Which would not be welcomed by Moscow, always hypersensitive to the balance of forces close to its borders. In that case, a stiffening of Russia would complicate Trump’s plan to associate it in some way in an orbit containing the growing Chinese influence. Are they thinking about it in America? And will the Europeans move, for whom the common defense should now be a categorical imperative?

For now, there are no decisions in Washington, the process will be long, even through Congress. However, Trump has an interest in closing times, focusing on the fundamental objective, his reelection in November. Presenting himself as the architect of the return home of thousands of soldiers can help him, with all due respect to Western and non-Western allies. Although Joe Biden has encouraging polls today, he must be on his guard. A divided and disoriented country can easily rely on the “strong man”. In the 1968 presidential election, after the riots, the tough Nixon prevailed over liberal Humphrey.

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