US-Präsident Donald Trump hat erstmals die Pläne für eine Reduzierung der US-Truppen in Deutschland bestätigt. Als Grund nannte er den säumigen Zahler Deutschland bei den Verteidigungsausgaben. Das Land tue aber auch auf anderen Feldern Dinge, die ihm nicht gefallen.
Bei einer Pressekonferenz zu verschiedenen Themen wurde der US-Präsident am (heutigen) Montag nach den vor gut einer Woche bekannt gewordenen Plänen gefragt, die US-Truppen in Deutschland von bislang rund 34.500 auf 25.000 zu verringern. Als Antwort erklärte Trump, die Zahl der Soldaten solle von 52.000 auf 25.000 verringert werden. Deutschland erfülle seine Verpflichtungen nicht, zwei Prozent der Wirtschaftsleistung für Verteidigung auszugeben, und sei damit ein säumiger Zahler in der NATO: Deutschland ist säumig, und wir beschützen sie. Das macht keinen Sinn.
Das Audio dieses Teils der Pressekonferenz zum Nachhören:
Die von Trump genannte Zahl von 52.000 Soldaten entspricht allerdings nicht der tatsächlichen Stärke der in Deutschland stationierten US-Truppen: Diese Zahl ist die Obergrenze für die US-Soldaten, die insgesamt auch bei Übungen oder bei Rotationen in andere Länder gleichzeitig in Deutschland sein dürfen. Die Stationierung liegt um gut 17.000 niedriger.
Damit ist ein bisschen unklar, worin die Aussage des US-Präsidenten nun konkret besteht. Sollte, wie das Wall Street Journal gemeldet hatte, die neue Obergrenze bei 25.000 liegen, würde die Zahl der dauerhaft in Deutschland stationierten Soldaten noch deutlich geringer ausfallen.
Gegen den Abzug hatten sich auch Abgeordnete aus Trumps eigener Partei gewandt. Die US-Basen, Kommandobehörden und die Infastruktur in Deutschland dienen vor allem den US-Einsätzen in anderen europäischen NATO-Ländern, aber auch den Missionen in Nahost und in Afrika. Inwieweit es für einen Ersatz dieser Infrastruktur an anderen Orten in Europa eine Finanzierung geben wird, ist noch völlig offen.
Nachtrag 16. Juni: Vom Weißen Haus gibt es kein Transkript von Trumps Pressekonferenz. Aber es gibt ein Transkript der Pressekonferenz des NATO-Generalsekretärs Jens Stoltenberg, in dem er auch zu diesem Punkt befragt wurde. Aus seiner Antwort gibt’s eigentlich nur eine wesentliche Aussage: Entschieden ist da noch nix. Auffällig vorsichtig war Stoltenberg allerdings bei der Frage, ob sich die NATO auch künftig an die NATO-Russland Grundakte gebunden fühlt…
Die Passage aus dem Transkript:
ROBIN EMMOTT [Reuters]: Thank you very much. Thanks for the question. So, President Trump has now publicly commented on his decision to withdraw some 10,000 troops from Germany. Are you now in a position to give us your sense of what that means and whether this decision weakens in any way one of the pillars of the post-war security order? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: President Trump and I discussed this issue during a phone call last week. And my message was that the US presence in Europe, it’s 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.
It is good for Europe because the presence of troops, military capabilities from the United States, but also from Canada, links the defence of Europe to forces, capabilities from North America. That’s the core of the transatlantic alliance. But it’s also good for the United States, because we have to remember that peace and stability in Europe is, of course, important also for North America.
But also the fact that the US presence in Europe is not only about protecting Europe, but it’s also about projecting US power beyond Europe. We have seen that bases like the Ramstein Base, the Landstuhl medical facility and many other US bases in Germany, they are essential for what the US has done over decades in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq and in Africa. And for instance, the US Africa Command is not in Africa. The US Africa Command is in Europe, in Stuttgart. And the command of the 6th Fleet is in . . . which is actually patrolling down south of Africa, is in Italy.
So it just illustrates that US presence in Europe, yes, it’s of great value for European Allies, but it also matters for the security of the United States.
Therefore, I welcome the fact that in the last couple of . . . in the last years, we have seen increased presence of both US but also Canadian troops in Europe. We have seen a new US-led battlegroup in Poland. We have seen more rotational presence of US troops in the Baltic region, in Black Sea Region. We have seen, of course, the new missile defence site in Romania, with also new ships deployed in Rota in Spain. In my own country, Norway, we have seen more US Marines than we have seen for a long time. And on top of that, we also, of course, see more prepositioned US equipment, more exercises, more prepositioned supplies. And then we see also increased air and naval presence, including, for the first time in a long . . . in decades, we saw a US aircraft carrier taking part in the Exercise Trident Juncture. And just as we speak, we have the BALTOPS Exercise in the Baltics, with roughly half of the troops are US.
I say this because the big picture is that over the last years, we have seen an increased US presence. Then, of course, the United States and the President has announced what they have announced. But it remains . . . but it’s not yet decided how and when this decision will be implemented. And I expect this to be an issue that will be discussed at the upcoming defence ministerial meeting.
And I have spoken with the President, I have spoken to other representatives of the US administration. And I’ve also spoken with the German Defence Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, so there’s now an ongoing dialogue on this issue. And my message is, and remains to . . . has been and remains to be, the importance of a North American, US, Canadian presence in Europe, because that binds Europe and North America together and that’s good for both Europe and North America.
PIERS CAZALET: And we now move to Thomas Gutschker from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
THOMAS GUTSCHKER [FAZ]: Thank you very much. Secretary General, on that same issue, you are speaking about the importance of the US presence in Europe, but then, of course, there is a big difference between a presence that is permanent, as it is now in Germany, and the rotating presence in Eastern Europe. So if the US were to move part of these troops, for instance, to Poland, which has been calling for it, and these troops were to be based permanently in Poland, in your opinion, would this be in . . . still be in compliance with the NATO-Russia Founding Act? And does NATO uphold, or intend to uphold, this NATO-Russia Founding Act? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, there are many different kinds of presence. Of course, we have exercises, they will last for weeks or perhaps a month. And then the troops will be placed another place, or deployed to another place. But what we very often refer to as ‘rotational presence’ is actually a presence where we have what they call ‘heel-to-toe rotational presence’. So, for instance, the battlegroups in Poland, the US-led battlegroup in Poland, it’s always there. It’s US-led, that are also other Allies contributing. But then, the forces are rotating, but there is a continuing, continued rotation. So the battlegroup is always active, the battlegroup is always operational, but the troops, which are part of the battlegroup, are changing regularly.
So rotational presence also provides security. Rotational presence is also important for our collective deterrence and defence.
When it comes to the NATO-Russia Founding Act, NATO’s presence in the eastern part of the Alliance with the new battlegroups and with more NATO presence is not violating the NATO-Russia Founding Act. The challenge now is that Russia has violated the NATO-Russia Founding Act several times, not least through their aggressive actions in Ukraine and the presence that NATO has discussed in the eastern part of the Alliance is within the framework of the . . . is not violating the NATO-Russia Founding Act.
PIERS CAZALET: And now we move to Teri Schultz from Deutsche Welle.
TERI SCHULTZ [Deutsche Welle]: Hi, thank you very much. Following up on this issue to some extent, don’t you feel, Secretary General, that, that even the fact that this, this move, this announcement was done in such a disjointed way with you even calling it a leak last week, before President Trump made his, made his comments last night. Is this the way that you would like NATO to operate that, sort of, we’re piecing together parts of what may or may not end up being the implemented policy simply by media reports? And on the same note, he bragged about his relationship with you in his comments yesterday. Do you feel that, in the interests of countering disinformation, that it would be important for you to perhaps explain to him in your next call how NATO is funded, the fact that no country actually owes billions to NATO? Isn’t this an important part of all of our jobs in countering disinformation? Thanks.
JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, this was an issue I discussed with President Trump, I think it was Monday last week. So, this is an issue which I then discussed with him. Last week this was media reports, because it was not confirmed by the United States. Now, these reports are confirmed and therefore it’s also, what should I say, easier to comment because now it’s officially announced by the United States. And that’s exactly why I went into more details in my comments today than I did last week.
Of course, the US presence in Europe and in Germany in particular has been an issue we have discussed, I have discussed, with the President, with representatives of the US administration, actually, for several years. We have seen adjustments over many years. And over the last years we have seen an increase. And I expect this to be an issue at the defence ministerial meeting this week, because presence of US troops, Canadian troops, is important for NATO.
Adjustments have been part of the, what should I say, has been . . . it’s nothing new, we have seen significant adjustments in US presence in Europe over several years. During the Cold War, we had hundreds of thousands of US troops in Europe. Then we saw significant reduction. And now, again, we have seen some increase.
The US has also made clear that exactly how and when this decision will be implemented is not yet decided. And therefore, I think it is important that we now have a dialogue within NATO on this issue. It’s a bilateral arrangement between the US and Germany. But, of course, it matters for the whole Alliance.
On defence spending, while President Trump has been very clear on the importance of increased defence spending across Europe and Canada, my message to him has been that NATO Allies are actually delivering. We have seen now several years with increased defence spending across the Alliance. Allies are adding in total 130 billion extra US dollars from 2016 up to the 2020, this year. And that’s a significant increase.
But we still have a way to go to meet the 2 per cent guideline. And the United States, not only President Trump, but also President Obama and previous presidents have been extremely focussed, or have been focussed, on burden-sharing, defence spending. And therefore, I also pushed that agenda, underlining the importance of fairer burden-sharing within the Alliance.
So NATO is a platform to have open discussions about burden-sharing, but also military presence, and I expect this to be an issue, as I said, at the defence ministerial meeting.
(Foto: A U.S. Soldier, assigned to the 2d Cavalry Regiment, conducts call for fire training as part of the testing phase for the Expert Infantryman Badge and the Expert Soldier Badge in Vilseck, Germany, June 3, 2020 – U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Hamlin)