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Is pulling US troops from Germany really a “gift to Russia”?

This week’s Worldly episode discusses the consequences of Trump’s plan to pull 12,000 troops from Germany.

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US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend the G20 Osaka Summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 28, 2019.
Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

In yet another controversial decision, the Trump administration announced Wednesday that the United States is moving forward with plans to pull 12,000 US troops out of Germany.

This would relocate about 5,600 troops to Italy and Belgium, with the rest returning to the United States to conduct rotational deployments to Europe, according to the Washington Post. The Pentagon says the plan is intended to strengthen NATO and deter Russia. But Trump — whose explanation has contradicted his own defense officials — says it’s because Germany is taking advantage of the US by not paying enough for its own defense.

On this week’s episode of Worldly, Vox’s weekly international podcast, senior foreign editor Jennifer Williams and international security and defense reporter Alex Ward discuss the merits of the arguments put forth by the Trump administration and what this might mean for the future of the United States’ relations with Europe.

The plan has been extensively criticized by politicians and defense experts from all over the political spectrum. Sen. Mitt Romney slammed the plan as a “gift to Russia,” and Sen. Bob Menendez said that “champagne must be flowing freely this evening at the Kremlin.”

Critics say the plan won’t deter Russia; it’ll do the opposite. The countries where the troops are being immediately relocated, Italy and Belgium, aren’t facing serious threats of Russian aggression. Moreover, Trump’s relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel are already souring, so critics also fear US-German relations could take a further turn for the worse.

And it could cost US taxpayers billions of dollars, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Shortly after a similar force realignment, when President Barack Obama withdrew some US combat brigades from Germany in 2012 and 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in 2014.

But there will still be 24,000 troops in Germany after the removal (which could take years), and it’s unclear if Putin will interpret the move as the “gift” US lawmakers accuse the plan of being.

To hear more about why the Trump administration is pulling troops from Germany and the potential consequences, listen to the full episode of Worldly, which you can stream below.

And subscribe to Worldly on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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