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9 Aug, 2019 09:10

US needles Berlin with threat to relocate German-based troops to ‘welcoming’ Poland

US needles Berlin with threat to relocate German-based troops to ‘welcoming’ Poland

Two US envoys have floated the idea of moving troops to Poland from Germany if it continues to skirt its duty to spend more on defense. The veiled threat comes after Berlin refused to join US military ventures in the Middle East.

The brewing spat between the two longtime NATO allies took a new turn after Richard Grenell, the notorious US ambassador in Berlin, upped the ante by fuming over Germany’s military spending. “It’s really insulting to expect the US taxpayer to keep paying for over 50,000 Americans in Germany,” he told DPA news agency on Friday.

Stubbornly reluctant to support US troops’ stay on its soil, Berlin instead devotes its trade surplus “to domestic purposes,” he lamented. Grenell has repeatedly aired Washington’s frustration over the issue, but this time it conspicuously coincided with a subtle hint from his colleague in Warsaw.

“Unlike Germany, Poland is meeting its commitment to spend 2 percent of GDP on NATO,” Georgette Mosbacher tweeted on Thursday. “We would be happy to welcome American soldiers moving from Germany to Poland,” she wrote.

Both comments come weeks before Donald Trump’s scheduled visit to Poland. The firebrand president has also consistently pushed Berlin to pay more for the “privilege” of hosting American soldiers, threatening to scale back US troop presence at times.

“President Trump is right and [Ambassador] Mosbacher is right,” Grenell commented. Numerous administrations have asked Europe’s largest economy “to pay for their own defense,” but this plea has dragged on “for many years and by many [German] governments,” he argued.

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Now a point has been reached at which the Americans and the US president would have to respond, Grenell hinted. The Pentagon has already redeployed a 1,000-strong contingent from Germany to Poland, where they will be stationed at six sites flagged by Warsaw.

The posturing also follows Berlin’s blunt refusal to embark on US- and UK-led naval patrols in the Persian Gulf. The mission officially seeks to protect navigation in the area, but it comes after Iran seized a British-flagged tanker in retaliation for its own oil carrier being captured by the UK in Gibraltar. 

Earlier, Germany also declined a US request to deploy troops in Syria, intended to fill the gap left by departing Americans.

Germany hosts more US troops than any other European nation. The country also accommodates the Pentagon’s biggest military installations in the continent, including the Ramstein airbase and others.

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