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Pompeo, lawmakers tangle over Germany troop withdrawal

Pompeo, lawmakers tangle over Germany troop withdrawal
© Greg Nash

Senators from both sides of the aisle on Thursday questioned Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? MORE over the decision to remove U.S. troops from Germany, criticizing the move as alienating allies and weakening the United States in the face of Russia and China.

The Pentagon on Wednesday announced it would move ahead on President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE’s earlier call to move about 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany, with more than half expected to return to the U.S. and the remaining deployed in Europe.

Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee raised concerns with Pompeo over the decision.

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Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed MORE (R-Utah) said he had spoken to the highest levels of the German government, who expressed they found it an “insult to Germany” that the U.S. would take troops out of the country.

“I can’t imagine at a time when we need to be drawing in our friends and allies so that we can collectively confront China, that we want to insult them,” he told Pompeo.

Romney is one of the most vocal Republican critics of Trump and called the initial announcement of troop removal a “grave error” and a “slap in the face” to allies the U.S. needs to confront China and Russia.

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenWhite House advisers huddle with Senate moderates on infrastructure Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Biden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans MORE (D-N.H.), who is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, pressed the secretary on whether alienating Germany was taken into consideration and threatened the U.S.'s ability to deter Russia.

“I don’t understand, was the effect of diplomatically alienating Germany who is the largest and wealthiest country in the EU, who has been a historic, strategic ally — was that also taken into consideration?” Shaheen said.

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The secretary pushed back that Germany is no longer a front-line country and said that the U.S. consulted with NATO over the decision to reposition troops.

“I am very confident that our mission to deter Russia, the NATO mission to deter Russia, we are still fully capable of executing that,” the secretary said.

Yet Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' White House digs in as infrastructure talks stall White House advisers huddle with Senate moderates on infrastructure MORE (R-Ohio), while saying he supported the decision to move troops from Germany, expressed concern about the 6,400 American soldiers expected to return to the U.S.

“I think moving troops out of Germany is a good idea, if they stay in Europe,” he said, and called for troops to be deployed to Poland, Baltic states and Eastern Europe.

“I agree that Germany is not the right place for the number of troops that we have; rather, it should be closer to where the action is and frankly the countries at most risk right now,” he said.

Pompeo said that the U.S. has not yet completed the defense cooperation agreement with Poland and deferred to the Department of Defense on where those redeployed troops would be going.

Trump announced last month he was looking forward to signing a defense cooperation agreement with the Polish president during his visit to the White House.