April 16, 2021 | Policy Brief

The Biden Administration Reverses Trump’s Mistake in Germany

April 16, 2021 | Policy Brief

The Biden Administration Reverses Trump’s Mistake in Germany

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced on Tuesday that the United States will bolster its military presence in Germany, reversing Trump-era withdrawal plans. The decision represents an important step both in improving NATO’s ability to deter and defeat Russian aggression while also strengthening U.S.-Germany relations.

During his first visit to Berlin as defense secretary, Austin announced the U.S. Army will permanently station roughly 500 additional troops in Germany. The Multi-Domain Task Force (MDTF) and the Theater Fires Command (TFC) are scheduled to arrive at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden in September and October 2021, respectively.

The MDTF includes “field artillery; composite air and missile defense; intelligence, cyberspace, electronic warfare and space; aviation and a brigade support element,” according to U.S. Army Europe and Africa. The TFC will track potential Russian targets and integrate joint and multinational fires to coordinate long-range strikes.

These units will support efforts to integrate operations across all domains, including cyber and space, to defeat Russian capabilities designed to prevent the United States and allied forces from responding effectively to aggression in Eastern Europe. Austin explained that the additional forces will “strengthen deterrence and defense in Europe,” including the “ability to surge forces at a moment’s notice to defend our allies.”

The planned troop increase and the message delivered during Austin’s visit should help improve relations with Germany, which have suffered in recent years as a result of former President Donald Trump’s plans to redeploy one-third of U.S. forces in Germany in retaliation for Berlin’s failure to meet the NATO defense spending target. President Joe Biden froze those plans shortly after taking office.

The U.S. military presence in Germany is not charity. Rather, as Austin stated, it is “good for the United States and good for NATO.” Standing alongside his German counterpart, Austin stressed the troop increase “underscores our commitment to Germany and to the entire NATO alliance.”

NATO is one of America’s greatest grand strategic assets. The alliance remains vital to deterring aggression from Moscow – as it has for more than seven decades. As former Supreme Allied Commander Europe General (Ret.) Philip Breedlove recently noted, “NATO is more important now than it’s ever been since the fall of the [Berlin] wall in 1989.” Russia’s ongoing military expansion in the Arctic, fielding of anti-satellite weapons, and aggression against Ukraine only underscore that point.

In addition, the U.S. military presence in Europe helps the Pentagon conduct and support military operations in the Eastern Mediterranean, Africa, and the Middle East.

The presence of U.S. forces in Germany deepens and broadens vital political, diplomatic, and people-to-people ties between the United States and one of the most important countries in the European Union. Germany’s size, political power, and economic clout within the European Union make the country an important ally. It would be quite difficult to maintain the unity of NATO if U.S.-German relations were permitted to deteriorate.

That alliance unity will be important not only for deterring Moscow, but also for addressing the growing threat presented by the People’s Republic of China. An effective response to Beijing, particularly its military-civil fusion strategy, will require increased alignment between Washington and Berlin on both the problem and how best to respond.

But for now, the Biden administration’s decision is worthy of praise. The Pentagon should act quickly to implement the decision and build on this deployment to wield additional leverage to counter Russian aggression.

Bradley Bowman is senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power (CMPP) at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where John Hardie is research manager and Russia research associate. For more analysis from Bradley, John, and CMPP, please subscribe HERE. Follow Bradley on Twitter @Brad_L_Bowman. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and @FDD_CMPP. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


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