President Donald Trump should reconsider a move to withdraw nearly 10,000 US troops from Germany because of continuing “threats” posed by Russia, nearly two dozen Republicans in the House of Representatives have urged.
In a letter to Mr Trump, Republican members of the House armed services committee said they were “very concerned” about reports the White House would draw down forces from American bases in Europe, a rare public break in party unity.
“In Europe, the threats posed by Russia have not lessened, and we believe that signs of a weakened US commitment to Nato will encourage further Russian aggression and opportunism,” the letter said.
Mr Trump’s push to withdraw troops from the US army’s main European bases comes during another period of tension between Berlin and Washington, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel refusing Mr Trump’s invitation to attend a Group of Seven summit at the White House tentatively scheduled for later this month.
Mr Trump has repeatedly demanded Nato allies, particularly Germany, increase military spending to shoulder more of Europe’s defence burden.
While the Republican House members said they agreed Berlin should do more to contribute to joint defence efforts, they also argued the “forward stationing of American troops since the end of World War II has helped to prevent another world war and, most importantly, has helped make America safer”.
Neither the Pentagon nor the White House have confirmed the reports of a move to draw down troops, first revealed by the Wall Street Journal. According to the accounts, the Trump administration had ordered the Pentagon to relocate 9,500 US troops from Germany and cap the maximum US presence in the country at 25,000.
The White House has previously floated the idea of relocating troops from Germany to Poland, in part a response to rising tensions between Mr Trump and Ms Merkel as well as an overture to Warsaw, whose rightwing populist government has proven more supportive of Mr Trump.
Senior Pentagon officials have long complained privately that restrictions in Germany, such as banning night flying by US helicopters, has limited the usefulness of basing troops in the country for training purposes.
But the House armed services members cautioned against proposals to cap overall troops at 25,000, arguing such a limit would prevent the US from conducting large-scale training exercises critical for battle readiness.
They argued a cap would also create global deployment bottlenecks because Germany was a logistics hub for US military personnel during unit rotations.