Christian Whiton: Trump is right to withdraw 9,500 U.S. troops from Germany – he should pull out even more

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Germany’s coordinator for transatlantic ties, Peter Beyer, haughtily called it “completely unacceptable,” but President Trump made the right call in reportedly ordering the removal of 9,500 U.S. troops from Germany, leaving a reduced force of 25,000.

Germany and the larger European Union it dominates oppose U.S. interests frequently. They do not deserve U.S.-funded protection.

News of the withdrawal, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, was met with shock by European officials and a mainstream media that constantly tells us Germany and the rest of Europe are our closest allies.

GERMAN OFFICIAL CALLS REPORT OF TRUMP’S PLAN TO PULL TROOPS ‘UNACCEPTABLE

Hopefully, this will be a teachable moment for them, since Germany typifies an ally in name only. It is irrelevant or harmful to the critical foreign challenges we face.

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For example, Germany actively works against the United States on Iran, joined by France and Great Britain. The three countries opposed Trump’s decision to end the Obama-Biden era appeasement of Tehran. Today they are working creatively and energetically to undermine U.S. financial sanctions on the terrorism-exporting Iranian regime.

Germany led in the creation of INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges), which theoretically would allow transactions with Iran that don’t touch the U.S. dollar-centered international financial system. Trump’s sanctions on Iran are so effective because they prevent any bank globally from executing a transaction with Iran unless it wants to be excluded from U.S. dollar-denominated transactions – a death sentence for any bank.

The German Foreign Ministry crowed in March that it had conducted its first transaction with Iran under the INSTEX scheme. If unpunished and expanded, this practice could undermine the most powerful non-military tool the U.S. government has to manage threats. And this from an “ally” that loves to talk about soft power.

Berlin is also on the wrong side of the free world’s struggle with China. In September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will welcome Chinese dictator Xi Jinping to Leipzig for a large European Union summit. In discussions about the agenda, Merkel consistently dodges questions about human rights and Beijing’s naked power grab in Hong Kong.

A senior member of Merkel’s political party recently said: “A policy aimed at isolating China is not in Germany’s or Europe’s interests.” Berlin still thinks China’s 1.4 billion consumers will make it rich, even as Americans and Asians have woken up to this myth. Germany also refuses to ban Huawei equipment in its 5G telecommunications network, placing Germany on China’s side in the world’s growing digital di

Germany, the European Union and NATO are freeloaders that are at best irrelevant, and more often liabilities.  

Germany is unhelpful in dealing with Russia, the purported dire threat that forms the rationale for having U.S. troops in Germany in the first place. Berlin has been working hard to realize Moscow’s plan for the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea. The project would leave Europe more dependent on Russian energy and subject to Russian political pressure.

Germany has also conceded nothing on the unfair trade relationship it maintains with the United States – a vestige of the Cold War when Washington didn’t mind giving Western Europe an advantage to help in its struggle with the Soviet bloc.

Today the United States levies only a 2.5 percent tariff on German cars, while Germany levies an unfair 10 percent tariff on U.S. cars, helping to drive a $67 billion trade-in-goods deficit last year. This unfairness is replicated across Europe, most notably with high French barriers applied to U.S. agriculture.

Two years ago, I wrote that NATO is obsolete. Since then, the German-led European Union, which comprises most of the bloc, has only magnified this reality.

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Europe is simply irrelevant or adversarial to America’s efforts on today’s key foreign challenges, which stem from China and Iran. Claims that NATO increased defense spending by $200 billion after Trump repeatedly threatened the group were always based on creative accounting. The claims were not reflected by actual defense budgets of non-U.S. members, and will be forgotten amid the economic carnage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump’s withdrawal of troops from Germany is a good start, and an important lesson to Europeans that we will no longer stand guard while they canoodle with our adversaries.

Absent a rapid about-face from Europe on trade and foreign policy, Trump should go farther. The president should remove all U.S. forces from Germany and downgrade our membership in NATO to the more passive Partnership for Peace used by non-members like Sweden. He should also enact reciprocity on tariffs and other barriers to trade.

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The vanguard of the free world in the 21st century is different from the last century. Its heart is still America, but its other key assets are frontline countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Poland, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. As during the Cold War, not all of those are nations are democracies, but they are reliable allies who oppose the chief enemies of freedom in the world.

Germany, the European Union and NATO are freeloaders that are at best irrelevant, and more often liabilities.

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