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The Thinking Behind Trump’s Troop Cut in Germany
US President Donald Trump greets members of the US military during a stop at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, on December 27, 2018.
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

The Thinking Behind Trump’s Troop Cut in Germany

Walter Russell Mead

President Trump’s decision to withdraw 9,500 troops from Germany stunned officials in both countries—including many in his own administration. The U.S. troop presence in Germany not only deters Russian aggression; it reassures Germany’s neighbors east and west that Berlin will never again disturb the peace of Europe or threaten their security.

To cut that troop commitment at all strikes virtually the entire U.S. foreign-policy establishment as dangerous; to cut the commitment without careful consultations with Germany and surrounding countries looks irresponsible. To do something this disruptive out of pique, as some allege, over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refusal to attend a proposed June Group of Seven conference appears to many seasoned diplomats and observers as an act of near madness. The chief beneficiary of such a step would be Vladimir Putin, whose main strategic goals involve weakening trans-Atlantic bonds and those connecting Berlin with the rest of the European Union. The move has revived the never entirely dormant belief among some that Mr. Trump is, for whatever reason, subordinating U.S. interests to Moscow’s.

The Trump administration’s policies toward Germany are, like many of the White House’s decisions, poorly integrated into any kind of overarching strategy. But these policies are not simply random acts of spite. They reflect a convergence between some of Mr. Trump’s longtime instincts about foreign affairs and those of three groups of thinkers who are outside the conventional foreign-policy establishment, but even so exercise significant political influence.

Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal

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