BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO is seeking details on U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to cut U.S. troops numbers in Germany, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday, after the proposed reduction caught allies off guard.
Trump, who has criticized Germany for not spending more on defence, on Monday confirmed last week’s reports of a cut of 9,500 troops in what may be the first time the U.S. president carries through on threats to reduce support in Europe.
“It’s not yet decided how and when this decision will be implemented,” Stoltenberg told a video news conference.
Stoltenberg said he had spoken to Trump, as well as other U.S. officials, and was also consulting with German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who said last week she had not been informed of the decision.
“It’s a bilateral arrangement between the U.S. and Germany but of course it matters for the whole alliance,” Stoltenberg said. He said he told Trump that U.S. troops in Europe were not only protecting territory but allowing the United States to project power beyond the continent.
Last week, a U.S. official said the decision had stemmed from months of work and had nothing to do with tensions between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who thwarted his plan to host an in-person Group of Seven summit.
The United States has yet to brief its NATO allies on the decision but may use a NATO defence ministers’ meeting on Wednesday and Thursday, via video link, two NATO diplomats said.
While the United States will retain some 50,000 military personnel in Europe, retired U.S. general Ben Hodges, who commanded American army forces in Europe, described it as a “colossal mistake.”
“If they go through with it, the damage to the relationship between Germany and the United States would be significant,” he told Reuters.
Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Steve Orlofsky