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9 Mar, 2019 00:24

US may demand ‘allies’ pay 150% for privilege of hosting troops

US may demand ‘allies’ pay 150% for privilege of hosting troops

Frustrated by its allies’ lagging military spending, the Trump administration is reportedly drawing up demands that countries where US troops are stationed pay the full cost – and then some – for the ‘privilege’.

The White House is drawing up demands that Germany, Japan, South Korea and eventually every other country ‘hosting’ US troops on its soil pay “cost plus 50” – 150 percent – for their upkeep, including the soldiers’ salaries, Bloomberg reports, citing “a dozen” sources in the Trump administration.

The Pentagon was asked to gather data on the cost of keeping US troops abroad and countries’ contributions toward these expenses, several officials – again, anonymously – told AP on Friday. Countries whose policies “align closely” with the US would get an unspecified discount, according to these sources.

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President Donald Trump is pushing the proposal personally, according to Bloomberg, going so far as to demand “cost plus 50" in a note to National Security Advisor John Bolton, when the US was negotiating the status of 28,500 or so troops in South Korea. The two countries eventually agreed on Seoul paying $924 million in 2019, up from $830 million the year before.

By way of comparison, Germany currently pays 28 percent of the cost of US troops being based on its soil – about $1 billion-a-year – according to Rand Corporation researcher David Ochmanek. At a recent congressional hearing, the top US general in Europe asked for even more troops, citing a “threat” from Russia. This was in addition to US demands for European NATO members to buy more US-made weaponry.

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Starting when he was on the campaign trail, Trump has repeatedly called for US allies to compensate Washington for the privilege of being ‘defended’ by Americans, but this reported proposal is the most specific suggestion as to how that would be done.

Such a move would ensure the allies have “skin in the game,” US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland said in an interview, indirectly confirming the existence of the plan. The US foreign policy establishment was alarmed by the proposal, however, blasting it as a surefire way to alienate allies the US relies on for global projection of power and influence.

“Even raising this question feeds a misinformed narrative that these facilities are there for the benefits of those countries,” Douglas Lute, US ambassador to NATO under the Obama administration and now a fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center, told Bloomberg.

The truth is they’re there and we maintain them because they’re in our interest.

US bases are “an essential part of protecting American interests” across the world, and asking host countries for money would be “totally self-defeating,” said Derek Chollet, Obama’s assistant defense secretary, now at the German Marshall Fund.

Ivo Daalder, another former ambassador to NATO under Obama, blasted the proposal as “preposterous” and said it would turn the US military into de facto mercenaries.

The US military had “around 600” bases outside of US territory as of 2013, with almost 200,000 troops overseas as of 2017. US troops have been stationed in Japan and Germany since the end of the Second World War in 1945, and in South Korea since the ceasefire froze the Korean War in 1953.

The US currently spends more on the military than the next 12 countries put together – including China ($224 billion), Russia ($44 billion) and India ($55.2 billion). The 2019 US military budget was $716 billion, and the proposed 2020 budget is rumored to be as high as $750 billion. Meanwhile, the US national debt has surpassed $22 trillion and is continuing to mount.

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