As per a report by the Wall Street Journal, Trump administration has decided to cut the number of American troops in Germany, a key NATO ally, by 25 percent. Currently, 34,500 American soldiers are stationed in Germany, second largest after Japan, and Trump has decided to cut 9,500 soldiers from duty in the European country.
The decision to cut the troops from Germany signals that Trump administration does not see NATO as a unified block, the member countries of which America would provide protection, without expecting any cooperation in return. The message is that if the government in any country is not friendly with Trump administration, or rejects American leadership, like the Merkel government in Germany- their security is at risk.
The push to withdraw troops probably comes from Merkel’s refusal to join G 7 summit, and European Union’s support for China under her de facto leadership. Trump is keen to mark the G7 summit as the world’s return to normalcy with a more powerful USA-dominated and anti-China liberal world order.
After Merkel’s refusal, Trump postponed the event which was scheduled in June, and called for the inclusion of countries like India, Russia, South Korea, and Australia before the next meeting.
Although this is clearly aimed at containing the Chinese threat, it also challenges Germany as all of the newly proposed countries are governed by leaders relatively friendly with the US and with Trump.
Also, at a time when Trump is trying to isolate China from international groupings and hold Beijing accountable for the spread of the Coronavirus disease, Merkel is trying to save China through the European Union.
First Merkel-led EU gave China entry into WTO’s alternative appellate body, of which countries like the US, India are not members. Then the EU saved Beijing in the World Health Assembly, by proposing a watered down draft on the investigation of Coronavirus spread which has no mention of Wuhan or China. The EU did this at the expense of Australia and China came in to have the last laugh. And Merkel is supposed to be behind these actions by EU, as she is the de facto leader of the group and had not made a single statement against Beijing so far.
Trump’s distaste for multilateral global liberal order is not hidden from anyone. And it was evident from the time he took over Presidency that, only the countries which would prove their loyalty to the US, can reap the benefits of US security.
Trump had made clear that NATO countries have to increase defense spending to 2 percent of GDP- Germany spends only 1.3 percent, one of the lowest- and they could no longer depend on the US for security, upsetting the seven decades-old American bipartisan consensus.
In the last three and half years, Trump and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel did not go along on any global issue.
Trump openly endorsed Brexit which, obviously, irked German chancellor and other European leaders. Trump also opposed Germany’s asylum to Syrian refugees, to approve which Merkel risked all her political capital. All this was brewing since Trump came to power, as both leaders have very different positions on the political spectrum.
Merkel is highly popular in Germany despite the rise of the alt-right, and Trump’s stand against Germans has led to unfavorable views of America in Germany. As per a recent survey by Pew Research Centre, 57 percent of Germans do not have a favorable view of the United States and 70 percent want Germany to remain neutral in the case of Washington-Moscow conflict.
For the last seven and a half decades of the post-World War II period, the United States was the Guardian of Western Europe. It helped the war-ravaged Western Europe to rebuild itself by financing vast infrastructure projects through the Marshall Plan, and guaranteed security from the Soviet Union through the NATO alliance.
Merkel is portraying herself and the European Union as the new champion of Global liberal order after President Trump challenged the many flaws within it. And this has led to both countries into diverging paths, for the first time since World War II.
But after Trump came to power, the relations started deteriorating with every country except Britain, which exited from the European Union last year. With Trump’s move against NATO; protectionist policies; unilateralism; and the “American First” type of Nationalism, it seems that countries like Germany, which do not support Trump’s worldview, are on their own.