Biden to freeze Germany drawdown
President Biden announced Thursday a global review of U.S. military force posture, freezing any troop withdrawals from Germany in the meantime.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will lead the review in “close coordination” with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and will focus on ensuring “our military footprint is appropriately aligned with our foreign policy and national security priorities,” Biden said.
The Pentagon has telegraphed the force posture review and freeze in drawing down from Germany, but Biden’s speech marks the first time he confirmed the move.
In a statement Thursday evening, Austin said he will put acting under secretary of Defense for policy Amanda Dory in charge of the force posture review, which will be done in consultation with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.
The review will examine U.S. military footprint, resources, strategy and missions and will inform Austin’s advice to Biden about “how we best allocate military forces in pursuit of national interests, the secretary said.
“We will consult our allies and partners as we conduct this review,” Austin added. “As I said on my first day in the job, no one succeeds at this business alone. From Afghanistan and the Middle East, across Europe, Africa and our own hemisphere, to the wide expanse of the Western Pacific, the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with allies old and new, partners big and small. Each of them brings to the mission unique skills, knowledge and capabilities. And each of them represents a relationship worth tending, preserving and respecting.”
Former President Trump ordered a drawdown of nearly 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany as retribution for what he described as Berlin’s “delinquency” on its defense spending.
NATO allies agreed in 2014 to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024, but Germany is not on track to meet that goal.
Under Trump’s plan, which had yet to be carried out before he left office, a little more than half of the 11,900 troops leaving Germany would come back to the United States, while the rest would redeploy elsewhere in Europe.
Trump administration officials in the Pentagon had insisted the drawdown was meant to realign forces to be more nimble for current threats, but Trump himself repeatedly said he ordered the drawdown to punish Germany for not spending more on defense.
Trump’s plan took the U.S. ally by surprise and was lambasted by lawmakers in both parties as ill-thought-out and a gift to Russia, which U.S. forces in Europe are meant to deter.
Biden, though, pledgedd uring the presidential campaign to reinvigorate traditional U.S. alliances, and a theme of Biden’s State Department speech was his vow to “repair our alliances and engage with the world once again.”
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said last week Austin would undertake a worldwide review of U.S. force posture, including in Germany, “as you would expect him to do when he first comes into office.”
Kirby stressed that no decisions have been made on U.S. troop levels in Germany, but that Austin pledged in a call with his German counterpart that “whatever decision we make, we will do it in consultation with her and her government. There won’t be any surprises.”
On Wednesday, U.S. European Command chief Gen. Tod Wolters also said planning for Trump’s withdrawal has paused amid the review.
“At this very moment, every single one of those options, they are all on hold,” Wolters told reporters. “They will all be reexamined from cradle to grave.”
Updated 8:51 p.m.