Defense minister: Trump Germany troop withdrawal pledge worrying

Minister of Defense Jüri Luik (Isamaa). Source: ERR

United States President Donald Trump's recent announcement of troop reductions in Germany is a worrying development for Estonia and the region, defense minister Jüri Luik (Isamaa) says.

"For us - leaving the military side aside - it is always very worrying when there are political tensions between some of Europe's great allies and the U.S. This has a clear negative impact on NATO's unity," Luik said.

"It is also clear that this could be taken as a false signal on security policy by our opponents," he added.

"As far as NATO is concerned, of course these forces are extremely important for the alliance here in Europe."

Trump announced Monday that the U.S. would be halving the number of American personnel in Germany, from the current 52,000 to 25,000, citing Berlin's reluctance to contribute more to NATO funding as the major factor.

Luik noted the forces' deployment was under the U.S. ultimately, with Trump as Commander-in-Chief, adding it is too early to assess impact fully as it is not known exactly when the troops will be withdrawn and in what manner.

"If the matter becomes serious, the removal of permanent bases, personnel and their family members, infrastructure and logistics is a very length process. So it is difficult to assess the real impact at the moment."

Possibilities included redeployment to neighboring Poland, whose NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroup is U.S.-led, but again nothing was certain, Luik said.

The matter might be discussed off-agenda at the next NATO defense ministers' meeting, Luik said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also talked to the U.S. President on the matter.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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