Nearly two-dozen Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee are pushing back on a White House plan to draw down US troops in Germany, according to a new letter sent to President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the panel, was joined by 21 other Republicans on the committee in urging Trump not to significantly reduce the number of US forces in Germany.
The letter comes after a defense official told CNN last week that the White House has asked for a substantial reduction of US military personnel stationed in the country. The official said that the exact size of the reduction has not been decided but a cut of 9,500 is the current tentative planning figure. The formal order to begin moving troops has yet to be given but is expected soon.
There are approximately 34,000 US troops currently stationed in Germany.
“We strongly believe that NATO allies, such as Germany, should do more to contribute to our joint defense efforts. At the same time, we also know that the forward stationing of American troops since the end of World War II has helped to prevent another world war and, most importantly, has helped make America safer,” the lawmakers wrote.
“In Europe, the threats posed by Russia have not lessened, and we believe that signs of a weakened US commitment to NATO will encourage further Russian aggression and opportunism. In addition, the overall limit on troops would prevent us from conducting the exercises that are necessary for the training and readiness of our forces and those of our allies,” they added.
“The troop limit would also significantly reduce the number of US forces that can flow through Germany for deployment to bases around the world, causing serious logistical challenges,” the letter reads.
While defense officials had weighed moving some forces from Germany in the past, several US and NATO officials told CNN last week that the size and timing of the reduction were unexpected.
This is hardly the first time that Trump has clashed with congressional Republicans on military matters, as the President’s isolationist tendencies break with typical Republican foreign policy. Congressional Republicans have urged him to avoid drawing down all US troops from Afghanistan, for instance, and criticized his decision last year to withdraw US troops from Syria.
Republicans have also encouraged Trump to remain committed to NATO even as he has railed on the alliance for years, complaining that European countries are not paying enough to support NATO. In particular, Trump has been critical of Germany for not meeting the 2% NATO defense spending target.
Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney said in a statement Tuesday that withdrawing US troops from Germany “would be a serious error” that would “damage our national security.”
“America’s forward presence has never been more important than it is today, as our nation confronts the threats to freedom and security around the world posed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the Chinese Communist Party. Our presence abroad is critical to deterring these adversaries, bolstering alliances, maintaining peace through strength, and preserving American leadership,” she said.
“Withdrawing our forces and abandoning our allies would have grave consequences, emboldening our adversaries and making war more – not less – likely,” Cheney added.
The US military has stationed forces in Germany since the end of the Second World War and their presence there on the front lines of the Cold War helped deter the Soviet Union from mounting an attack on NATO members.
While the number of US troops in Germany had decreased in recent years, US bases in the country continue to be used by the military due to their strategic location and the presence of US defense infrastructure such as air bases and medical facilities.