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Comment: Trump's election campaign with US troops in Europe

The threat had long been in the room, now the US president seems to want to get serious. Donald Trump apparently wants to take revenge for the fact that, in his opinion, Germany is not spending enough funds on its defense budget. This move by the capricious president is wrong in several ways.

The withdrawal of 9,500 US soldiers from Germany makes no military sense. Nor does it follow any discernible strategy. The US troops mainly work within the NATO framework for the US Army's Europe and Africa Command. They operate the large Ramstein air force base, a military hospital and a military training area. They are important pillars of the NATO architecture, but they do not contribute much to the national defense of Germany in the narrower sense.

If part of the soldiers are now transferred to Poland and the other part back to the United States, the erratic Commander-in-Chief Trump will weaken the capabilities of his own army and the North Atlantic Alliance. So it is a purely political decision to put pressure on the ally Germany.

The Kremlin can be happy, the allies may not

In an alliance one should actually work together trustingly and not use extortion or attack-like actions. Trump didn't even consider it necessary to officially inform the federal government under the troop deployment agreement.

Europe correspondent Bernd Riegert

It's true: Germany will not achieve the target agreed in NATO in 2014 of spending two percent of its economic output on defense by 2024. The USA and the other allies can of course criticize that, but with the withdrawal of troops or the relocation they are only weakening themselves.

The Russian president will be pleased that the leading NATO power is creating discord in its own alliance. Vladimir Putin could not wish for a better US president than the strategically incapable Trump. Putin will do anything to happily drive a wedge into NATO.

The cheers from Poland are premature. Warsaw sees the relocation of troops eastwards as a reward for the national conservative government for its loyalty to Trump. But it brings annoyance to the European part of NATO and, as I said, has little military relevance, because there are no outright combat units, but - if at all - military staff. The permanent relocation is also likely to violate the NATO-Russia Act and thus provoke new trouble with the Kremlin.

The action of the US president, who is under massive pressure at home, can also be counted as part of the election campaign. Donald Trump had promised four years ago to bring back "millions of dollars from NATO" to the USA. That couldn't work, of course, because everyone in NATO pays for their own troops. There are no fees for the stationing of US troops in Europe or elsewhere that could be reclaimed. Nevertheless, Trump wants to convince the ill-informed supporters again that he can make the allies dance to his tune.

The episode shows again that the European allies can hardly rely on the Commander-in-Chief in the White House. It is a wake-up call for Europeans to do more for their own defense and actually spend more money on it.