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Germans Want Trump to Get US Troops Out

Trump wants them out, Germans want them out. Why it's not happening?

  • Between wanting Yankees to go home and barely spending anything on the Bundeswehr it hardly sounds like the Germans feel any Russian threat, does it?

After over 70 years, Germans have apparently had enough of the U.S. troop presence in their country, the second largest presence of U.S. troops abroad after Japan. According to a YouGov poll conducted by Germany’s DPA news agency, 42% of Germans support a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops in the country with 37% of Germany wanting them to stay and 21% undecided. Currently, Germany hosts close to 35,000 U.S. soldiers and between 30 and 40 U.S. military bases.

The poll also found that support for withdrawal came from across the German political spectrum. For instance, 67% of voters from the left-wing Die Linke party were found to support a U.S. troop withdrawal while 55% of the far-right, nationalist AfD party also expressed support for their removal. The Green party of Germany also backed withdrawal by 48%. Support was lowest among voters of the CDU party, the political party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at 35%.

Other findings from the poll show that there is little popular support among Germans for militarism in general, but particularly U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent demand that NATO members such as Germany work to increase their military spending to a new target of 4% of national GDP. Some German political analysts have asserted that Trump’s demand is aimed at increasing European purchases of U.S.-manufactured weapons systems.

On this point, however, the poll found that only 15% of Germans support increasing military spending to just 2% of GDP. Furthermore, 36% of Germans feel that the country already spends too much on military spending. Yet, despite the lack of support for increasing military spending among Germans, Merkel stated on Thursday that, after a “very fundamental” discussion during the recent and “very intense” NATO summit, Germany must spend more on NATO defense.

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Even though he has pushed Germany and other NATO countries to push for increased military spending despite a lack of popular support, Trump could still prove an unlikely ally for Germans eager to see at least a reduction in the number of U.S. troops stationed throughout the country.

Indeed, just two weeks ago, Trump was allegedly very surprised to learn the high number of American soldiers stationed in Germany. According to a report in the Washington Post, Trump’s surprise prompted him to ask the Department of Defense to analyze the feasibility of conducting a large-scale withdrawal or transfer of the U.S. troop presence stationed in Germany.

However, U.S. government officials have seemed to have talked Trump out of actually taking action on a withdrawal of troops from Germany. Notably, U.S. military officials, such as retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges who commanded U.S. Army Europe until late last year, have asserted that any reduction in the U.S. military presence in Germany would be a “colossal mistake.” Hodges further claimed that Russia, particularly Russian President Vladimir Putin, would emerge the “big winner” and that any reduction of the American military presence in Germany would “embolden Russia in terms of its adventurist, intimidating foreign policy.” In an interview with Stars and Stripes, he also expressed confidence that Trump’s suggestion of a troop withdrawal was just a negotiating tactic and that “Pentagon planners would agree to keep troop levels in Germany on the current scale.”

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