GOP Senate chairman backs Germany drawdown

GOP Senate chairman backs Germany drawdown
© Bonnie Cash

The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is backing the Trump administration’s plans to move thousands of U.S. troops out of Germany.

Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled Chamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection MORE (Okla.) said he arrived at his decision after a briefing from acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Anderson and U.S. European Command chief Gen. Tod Wolters.

“After this morning’s briefing with the Department of Defense, I believe the concept for realigning U.S. military posture in Europe, as the president has approved, is sound,” Inhofe said in a statement. “The department is doing a good job of following the guiding principles I’ve described as the ‘three Fs’— forward presence, force projection and families.”

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That Inhofe, a staunch supporter of President TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE, would come around on the plan is not surprising. But many Republican defense hawks have remained in ardent opposition to the drawdown.

Last month, Trump abruptly announced that he planned to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Germany from 34,500 to 25,000. Germany is home to the headquarters for U.S. European and Africa commands.

The Pentagon presented Trump options to do so in late June, with the department announcing the next day he approved one of its plans.

Few details of the plan have been released, but Trump has indicated some troops would move elsewhere in Europe, including to Poland, while some would come back to the United States.

Trump has cast the move as a response to Germany not meeting NATO’s goal of spending at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. NATO allies agreed in 2014 to meet the goal by 2024.

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“Germany is paying a very small fraction of what they’re supposed to be paying,” Trump said last month, accusing Berlin of “tremendous delinquency.”

On Wednesday, Inhofe described the move as one to create “lily pads” of troops closer to NATO’s eastern flank, saying he’s “pleased that, because of President Trump’s leadership, we’re finally having an opportunity to realize this goal.”

Still, Inhofe stressed the plan must be carried out slowly to be done right. He further stressed the need to consult with NATO allies, which was not done before Trump’s announcement last month.

“It is clear to me that this concept will take months to plan and years to execute,” Inhofe said. “Rigorous planning and deliberate implementation of this concept is the best way to give our military families a measure of certainty and ensure they receive the care and support they deserve. It will also be critically important for the Department to continue to engage fully with our NATO allies on this concept.”

The House has included in its version of the annual defense policy bill a bipartisan amendment seeking to constrain Trump’s ability to withdraw from Germany. The House Armed Services Committee approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment in a bipartisan 49-7 vote earlier this month.

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyNRCC poll finds McBath ahead of Handel in Georgia Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  MORE (R-Utah) was pushing to include a similar amendment in the Senate’s version of the NDAA, which is shepherded through the upper chamber by Inhofe. But Romney’s amendment was not granted a vote.

“The administration’s proposal to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany is a matter of extreme significance to our national security, our military readiness, and our alliances,” Romney said in a statement Wednesday morning. “A decision of such magnitude should not be made without the input of the United States Senate.”