Pompeo, lawmakers tangle over Germany troop withdrawal
Senators from both sides of the aisle on Thursday questioned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 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 Trump’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.
Sen. Mitt Romney (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 Shaheen (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.
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 Portman (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.