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Romney: Trump's Germany drawdown is 'grave error'

Romney: Trump's Germany drawdown is 'grave error'
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDemocratic centrists flex power on Biden legislation Ron Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Romney's TRUST Act is a Trojan Horse to cut seniors' benefits MORE (R-Utah) on Wednesday blasted the Pentagon’s plan to move nearly 12,000 troops out of Germany, calling it a “grave error.”

“The plan outlined by the administration today to remove thousands of U.S. troops from Germany is a grave error,” Romney said in a statement.

“It is a slap in the face at a friend and ally when we should instead be drawing closer in our mutual commitment to deter Russian and Chinese aggression,” he added. “And it is a gift to Russia coming at a time when we just have learned of its support for the Taliban and reports of bounties on killing American troops. The move may temporarily play well in domestic politics, but its consequences will be lasting and harmful to American interests.“

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Romney, a frequent foil for President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new tranche of endorsements DeSantis, Pence tied in 2024 Republican poll Lawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food MORE on foreign policy, has previously expressed opposition to drawing down troops in Germany and filed an amendment to the annual defense policy bill aimed at preventing a withdrawal, though his measure did not get a vote. His latest comments came after the Pentagon filled in some of the details of the plan.

On Wednesday morning, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels Former Trump Defense chief Esper to join McCain Institute CORRECTED: Overnight Defense: COVID-19 stymies effort to study sexual assault at military academies | Biden, Saudi king speak ahead of Khashoggi report MORE announced the United States would begin pulling about 11,900 U.S. troops out of Germany “within weeks.”

About 5,600 of the troops will be moved elsewhere in Europe, while about 6,400 will come back to the United States. Many of those returning to the United States will do rotational deployments back into Europe, Esper added.

In making Wednesday’s announcement, Esper fulfilled an order Trump first announced in June.

Esper cast the move as a strategic realignment of forces that had been in the works for months, saying Trump’s June announcement merely accelerated the process.

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But Trump has repeatedly cast the move as punishment for Germany not fulfilling NATO’s goal of countries spending at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

On Wednesday, moments after Esper argued the drawdown is about strategy, Trump reiterated that he is doing it to penalize Berlin.

"We’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills. It’s very simple. They’re delinquent," Trump told reporters while departing the White House.

The drawdown has elicited criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike who argue it will undermine U.S. alliances.

Calls to halt the plan also grew after the news that U.S. intelligence has indicated Russia offered bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops, with lawmakers and others arguing gifting Russia with a European drawdown after that revelation would further embolden Moscow.

Trump told Axios on Tuesday that he has not raised the bounties issue with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinWhite House calls Microsoft email breach an 'active threat' As gas prices soar, Americans can blame Joe Biden How to think about Russia MORE.

Still, at least one key Republican has come around on the Germany drawdown plan. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) announced his support after Pentagon officials briefed him last week.