At a White House roundtable Monday, Trump said the current number of troops in Germany is “a tremendous cost to the United States” and suggested he would pull some troops out of Germany unless the nation pays more to NATO.
“And Germany, as you know, is very delinquent in their payments to NATO,” he told reporters, claiming later, “So Germany is delinquent, they’ve been delinquent for years and they owe NATO billions of dollars, and they have to pay it. So we’re protecting Germany and they’re delinquent, that doesn’t make sense.”
Trump has repeatedly mischaracterized Germany’s payments to NATO. It is not in debt to the alliance and never has been, but is not meeting a pledge to spend 2% of its GDP on national defense, the same as many other members. Germany has recently been increasing its defense spending.
Trump said he would draw down the number of US soldiers in Germany to 25,000 troops.
There are approximately 34,000 US troops stationed in Germany. CNN previously reported that the exact size of the reduction has not been decided, but a cut of 9,500 is the current tentative planning figure.
“One of the only countries that hasn’t agreed to pay what they’re supposed to pay (on NATO) is Germany. So, I said until they pay, we’re removing our soldiers, a number of our soldiers, by about half. Then when we get down to about 25,000, we’ll see where we’re going,” Trump said.
The President also accused Germany of treating the US “very badly on trade.”
“So, Germany takes and then on top of that they treat us very badly on trade,” Trump said, adding, “And we’re negotiating with them on that, but right now I’m not satisfied with the deal they want to make. They’ve cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars over the years on trade.”
Trump has long criticized Germany over a range of issues, particularly Berlin’s failure to meet the target of 2% of gross domestic product spending on defense that is recommended by NATO.
In 2014, following Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, all NATO members pledged to meet the 2% target by 2024. Only nine of the 29 NATO allies are currently estimated to reach that recommended spending target of 2% of GDP.
If the troops directed to leave Germany are removed from Europe entirely, the drawdown could be seen as a major blow to solidarity within the NATO alliance as many member countries continue to express concerns about the threat posed by Russia, which has used military force against Ukraine in recent years.
Nearly two-dozen Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee in a letter last week urged Trump not to significantly reduce the number of US forces in Germany, arguing that it would encourage Russian aggression and hurt military readiness.
During a news conference Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he told Trump last week that the US presence in Europe is “good for Europe, but it’s also good for North America and the United States, because the transatlantic bond is essential to the strength and the success of the alliance.”
“My message to (Trump) has been that NATO allies are actually delivering. We have seen, now several years, with increased defense spending across the alliance,” Stoltenberg said later, adding, “But we still have way to go to meet the 2% guideline.”
He said that the US had not yet decided “how and when this decision will be implemented” but that he expects the issue will be discussed in the NATO defense ministers’ meeting this week.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also said Tuesday he believes the US military presence in Germany is important for Europe and the US.
“We believe that the American presence in Germany is important not only for the security of Germany, but also for the security of the United States and for the security of Europe as a whole,” Maas said during a visit to Warsaw, Poland.
CNN’s Ryan Browne and Stephanie Halasz contributed to this report.