On July 29, 2020, the US Department of Defense announced plans to withdraw 11,900 servicemen from Germany. Although exactly where the majority of these forces would be repositioned remains classified, at least one United States Air Force (USAF) fighter squadron will be moved to Italy while several Army units will be forward deployed to Poland. In a bid to further enhance the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) command cohesion, the US European Command (EUCOM) headquarters will be relocated from Stuttgart, Germany to Brussels, Belgium. The Intelligence Ledger assesses that the movement will enhance the ability of EUCOM to respond to aggression in Europe and strengthen American relationships with states on the Russian border.
The Trump administration was keen to reduce troops from its Cold War ally for several reasons. First, the German government has consistently failed to meet defense expenditure requirements instituted by NATO. Second, Germany appears to be perusing closer economic relations to its expressed rival: Russia.
Since being first announced in 2011, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project has become a fierce point of contention between the United States and several of its European allies. If completed, the project would connect the Russian Federation to Germany, and thus offer Russian gas companies direct access to the European market. While free market champions have touted the project as a way to increase wealth and product choice, concerns are rising in many NATO and partner countries, including the United States, Poland, and Ukraine, that Moscow will use the pipeline to advance its gray zone strategy.
In many ways, the US announcement of troop withdrawals from Germany is Washington's way of diversifying its force posture. With Berlin now looking to Moscow for economic reasons, pulling troops out of Germany may shake the NATO member state out of its slumber and into reality.
The 11,900 American servicemen being withdrawn have several nations competing for their presence, including Latvia and Poland. Latvia's Defense Minister, Artis Pabriks, announced in a press conference that the small nation state would be willing to house and pay for American troops if Washington desires. Poland has also offered to host American units, with one Armored Brigade Combat Team, combat aviation brigade, and combat support sustainment battalion already slated to deploy to the former Soviet satellite within a year.