Trump’s plan to move troops to Poland reveals lack of real strategy

  • At the White House this week, President Donald Trump said that some of the thousands of soldiers he plans to redistribute from Germany will “probably” go to Poland.
  • It is unclear whether that will actually happen, but the troop displacement between European countries reveals the lack of a Trump strategy to deal with threats facing the United States, writes Bonnie Kristian, a member of Defense Priorities.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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Part of the more than 9,000 US troops the Trump administration plans to withdraw from Germany will “likely” be reassigned to Poland, President Donald Trump said last week at a press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda at the White House.

“Poland is one of the few countries that is meeting its obligations under NATO, in particular its monetary obligations, and we were asked if we would send some additional troops,” Trump told reporters. “They will pay for that. They will pay for sending additional troops. And we will probably move them from Germany to Poland.”

It remains to be seen if this is true. Trump is notoriously mercurial. The Washington Post reports that the Defense Department said no redistribution decisions have been made, and that there are several initiatives underway in Congress to block such a move. If the Pentagon is correct and the plans can still be changed, they should be changed.

Instead of sending these American forces to Poland, Trump should simply take them home. The administration should also reconsider the reasoning and rhetoric Trump used to explain his plan for Poland, which in four ways demonstrates troubling disinterest in something like a cautious grand American defense strategy.

Allied Army Spirit Poland Defender-Europe

A Polish soldier guides a U.S. Army Bradley combat vehicle from a bridge during an exercise in Poland, June 11, 2020.

US Army / Sgt. Randis Monroe

First, the departure from Germany, while welcome, seems minimally articulated around the security interests of the United States. I hate looking at a gift horse in the mouth, but this move seems to be more clearly related to the President’s personal sense of offense that Berlin has not met his demands.

“Germany has done it: they really owe a lot of money to NATO, and this has been going on for many years,” Trump said at the press conference. “When you add it all up, you’re probably close to a trillion dollars. And that’s not treating NATO fairly, but it’s really not treating the United States fairly,” he continued. “And I imagine [Berlin would] They would like to wait until after the elections so that they may be able to deal with someone other than President Trump. But after the elections, they will only have to pay more. “

Beyond the dispute over military spending, Trump has extended this talk of “injustice” and “mistreatment” to Germany’s trade policy in other comments on troop movements. The result is an impression of revenge rather than strategy.

That is unfortunate, because the strategic argument for leaving the United States is strong: Germany, like other European countries, is a rich and powerful nation perfectly capable of taking responsibility for its own defense. American troops should withdraw from Europe not, as Trump thinks, as punishment, but rather as a backward shift from US foreign policy towards realism and restraint (and encouraging European defense policy towards self-sufficiency).

US Army Armored Vehicles Germany Defender-Europe 20

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers search vehicles at Fallingbostel, a former British Army base on the outskirts of Bergen-Hohne, Germany, on February 8, 2020.

US Army / Maj. Joseph bush

Second, the way Trump talks about Poland “paying” for US troops may be a nod to fiscal conservatism, but this suggests that US forces could be deployed anywhere, if they pay enough, converting the US military. in the largest mercenary force in the world. This is irresponsible transactionalism.

If he wants to save money on military spending, and he should, Trump should end the “endless wars” he claims to oppose rather than sell the power of the United States to the highest or most flattering bidder.

Third, Trump’s willingness to send troops from Germany to Poland undermines his entire burden-sharing argument. “You know, the United States is a very, is the main participant in NATO. We pay more than anyone, by far, [and we] they have done it for many, many years, “Trump complained. But switching the defense of one European nation for another is not what seems like a strategic pivot.

Fourth and finally, moving troops east in Europe means bringing them closer to Russia. “I think [putting more US troops in Poland] it sends a very strong signal to Russia, “Trump said at his press conference with Duda, neglecting entirely to figure out what that message might be.

Duda filled the void, speaking in much more detail than Trump about the Polish history with Russia and concluding that he likes having a US military presence in Poland as cover against Russia’s “very strong imperial ambitions”.

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Trump and Polish President Andrzej Duda on July 6, 2017.

White House / Shealah Craighead

That the President of Poland wants to outsource his defense to the most powerful nation in the world makes sense. But Washington’s acceptance of the job offer does not.

The risk is the same as in other US military interventions in Eastern Europe: escalating the high-powered conflict between the US and Russia is a real possibility, and an unnecessary possibility to keep the United States. insurance.

Moscow is a declining power and interprets US movements eastward as a threat to Russia’s central interests. Therefore, it is unlikely to back down from the US advance, but the United States does not need to move towards Eastern Europe. Avoiding open conflicts with Russia is much more necessary for us.

If Trump continues to remove US forces from Germany, he should do so with that reality in mind. Do not send them east, to Poland. Send them west, home to the United States.

Bonnie Kristian is a member of Defense Priorities, a contributing editor to The Week and a columnist for Christianity Today. Her writings have also appeared on CNN, Politico, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, Defense One, and The American Conservative, among other media.