On Wednesday, July 29, the Pentagon announced the decision to withdraw 12,000 servicemen from Germany. According to the plan, 6.4 thousand soldiers will return home, while 5.6 thousand will be moved to other European countries. US military presence in Germany will drop from 36,000 to 24,000.
In June, US President Donald Trump announced that he decided to reduce the US military contingent in Germany. He explained that he intends to leave 25,000 troops in the country. The American leader justified his decision by the fact that Germany allegedly does not spend enough money on defense within NATO.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the repositioning of US troops in Europe, among other things, will allow the deployment of additional forces closer to the Black Sea region.
“A fighter squadron and elements of a fighter wing will be repositioned to Italy, moving them closer to the Black Sea region and better capable of conducting dynamic force deployments to NATO’s southeastern flank,” Esper said at a press conference.
Esper also informed the press that “the 4,500 members of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment will return to the United States as other Stryker units begin continuous rotations farther east in the Black Sea region, giving us a more enduring presence to enhance deterrence and reassure allies along NATO’s southeastern flank.”
According to the US Secretary of Defense, this process will begin in the coming weeks and will cost the United States several million dollars. The decision to withdraw some US military personnel will make it possible to confront Russia more effectively.
Previously, Poland was listed as a proposed area for the transfer of US forces from Germany. Now, according to Esper, it is a question of “moving forward the leading element of the Army’s newly established V Corps headquarters to Poland.
Another country to which Washington was ready to move its troops was Romania. Esper may have been referring to this country, when said about reassuring allies on the NATO’s southeast flank.
“The rotational brigades will largely train in the Black Sea region, where the US Army has been building up in Romania for several years and already has a steady presence of rotational forces at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base,” according to the official publication of the US Armed Forces Stars and Stripes.
After the announcement of the Pentagon, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said that his country is already ready to receive as many US troops as it needs. According to him, the Romanian leadership “has stressed the need for [deploying] more troops in the Black Sea zone”.
It is indicative that the Ambassadors of Ukraine, Georgia and Romania recently called on the United States to increase its military presence in the Black Sea.
A change in priority
Almost half of the American troops being withdrawn from Germany will be redeployed to other parts of Europe. At the same time, the US Defense Department has indicated that those who will go to the US also later will return to Europe on a rotational basis.
Thus, the US will not withdraw troops from Europe, but only change their deployment and change the format of their military presence from permanent to more flexible, allowing for a more rapid response to security challenges.
Other plans to reduce US military presence in Germany include moving at least two headquarters elements out of Stuttgart, Germany, and over to Mons, Belgium.
The US Africa Command, also based at Stuttgart, may also move out of Germany, but its final destination is not known. It is possible that the troops will be redistributed to Italy as a country close to the area of responsibility of AFRICOM.
The repositioning of troops reflects the change of priorities for the US in Europe. From the Western Europe to the South shores of the continent to areas close to Africa and the Middle East and the hydrocarbon wealth of the Eastern Mediterranean.
It is also the same area as Turkey’s “Mavi Vatan” (Blue Homeland) and where the US Exxonmobil, alongside French Total and Italian ENI, currently works offshore from Cyprus against Turkish interests.
A cause of concern
The question arises how the transfer of US troops to Italy is linked to deter Russia. They can only restrain Russia from Italy in one direction – Libya. AFRICOM pays special attention to this country, showing interest in returning and deterring Russia from expanding its influence there.
Special attention to the south-eastern flank of NATO and Romania in the modern military construction of NATO is also associated with the prioritization of this direction. It also demonstrates that NATO perceives the strategic situation in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea holistically. For NATO, these are all one region.
This makes Turkey a key country for implementing NATO’s anti-Russian strategy in the Black Sea-Mediterranean region. At the same time, reliance on Romania and Italy demonstrates that the US does not perceive Turkey as a significant ally in this direction.
Rather, on the contrary, given the Turkish opposition to the most important US projects in the region, primarily the energy project EastMed pipeline from gas deposits of Eastern Mediterranean to Italy, Ankara is seen in Washington as an adversary if not enemy, that fractures and weakens NATO.
This explains the fact that US and Western experts in general have a negative assessment of both the Russian and Turkish presence in Libya.
The upcoming transfer of US troops from Germany to Italy and south-eastern Europe is objectively aimed not only at Russia but also at Turkey. Therefore Turkey as well as Russia will react and different players (Italy, France, Greece, UAE and even Ukraine) will try to use US military presence in their regional games, striving for power.
The US itself, in its infamous presence in Afghanistan, Iraq, cannot play a constructive role in the region, especially taking into account its role in the recent exhalations in Persian Gulf or support of Kurdish separatists in Syria. Bringing American troops is always equal to bringing instability and chaos.
Thus, the decisions to restructure American presence in Europe with special attention to the South and South East will not bring more peace and stability in the region, but rather pour more fuel on the fire and escalate military tensions.