Donald Trump allegedly decided to withdraw more than 9,000 American soldiers from Germany. Perhaps some of the withdrawn soldiers will go to Poland. But if someone thinks that Poland will benefit from the whole situation, they are wrong. Here’s why.
First of all, there is little indication that Donald Trump’s decision is part of a broader strategy.
“In my opinion, it’s a colossal mistake,” said former US Army Commander General Europe Ben Hodges in an interview with Politico.
He also added that the president’s decision was “pure politics” and that its main beneficiary would be Russia, which “did nothing to deserve such a gift.”
The agreement, though, and the political sense of this decision is very questionable. As the 2019 opinion polls in the US and Germany show, Americans attach more importance to the presence of their troops in Germany than the Germans themselves.
As many as 85% of Americans surveyed by the PEW Research Center said that bases in Germany are important for the security of their country, and only 13% were of the opposite opinion. In the case of a similar question asked in Germany, 56% of affirmative and as many as 45% of negative answers were received.
What is more, when the popularity of the American president in the world declines – in 2018, 10% of Germans declared trust in Trump (!) – his dispute with the German Chancellor will sooner bring Angela Merkel more supporters than hurt her.
Secondly, if Trump actually made such an important decision without warning the Germans, NATO leadership, or even his State Department, this is further evidence of how unpredictable foreign policy of this administration is. All the more, if the media reports confirm that the president decided to withdraw the soldiers after Chancellor Angela Merkel – citing the risk of the epidemic – refused to come to the G-7 summit held in Washington.
The pandemic could, of course, only be a convenient excuse for Merkel, who was, in fact, afraid that the American president would use the G-7 summit primarily for self-promotion and to declare the end of the epidemic.
This is all the more likely because Trump’s approval ratings in the United States alone has recently fallen to just 40%. And his main competitor in the presidential election, Joe Biden, has up to 14 percentage points advantage in case of a direct clash.
The reasons for this decline are obvious: serious health and economic consequences of the epidemic, but also the president’s response to the protests following the assassination of George Floyd. Instead of toning up the mood, Trump threatened to send the army to the streets, even against the will of local authorities in individual states.
Merkel’s fears that Trump could use the summit to improve his ratings are not unfounded. Just a few days after her refusal to attend the summit, the president decided to use force to stop a peaceful demonstration outside the White House only to go to one of the neighboring churches and take a picture of himself.
This decision was criticized even by General James Mattis – who until recently was rather reserved in expressing his opinions, – a former Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration.
German Chancellor may also have feared that Trump would want to launch an attack on China. Let us remember that after the last virtual meeting of the G-7 group no joint statement was issued, because the US Secretary of State insisted that the term “Chinese virus” should be used instead of “COVID-19”.
Meanwhile, Germany, which begins its six-month presidency of the European Union on July 1, would prefer that in the Sino-American conflict Europe does not become a hostage to either state.
Thirdly, although it cannot be ruled out that Trump decided to withdraw troops from Germany on impulse, it is yet another sign of weakening of the relations with Europe in general, and Germany in particular.
Although it may be difficult to imagine, the current administration did not designate an ambassador to the European Union until June 2018, i.e. almost 1.5 years after the inauguration of Donald Trump’s presidency. And right now… there is no ambassador again.
After Gordon Sondland bade farewell to his post in February this year, the acting ambassador to Belgium is Ronald Gidwitz. Both gentlemen – Sondland and Gidwitz – are, incidentally, primarily businessmen with no special diplomatic experience.
As if that was not enough, since June 1, the United States also has no ambassador in Berlin after Richard Grenell resigned. And there is no indication that this will change in the near future.
Fourthly, so far, despite the many friendly – not to say submissive – gestures of the Polish authorities towards President Trump, the decision on the permanent presence of American soldiers in Poland has not yet been made. Their number remains unchanged and oscillates around 5,000 troops.
We should also bear in mind that the withdrawal of almost 10,000 soldiers from Germany, the country in which they have been stationed for decades, is not happening overnight. Especially since the decision does not only apply to soldiers, but also to the personnel employed to service them – in this case it is additional 20,000 people. So we are still not sure that the president’s order will be implemented in September, as planned. And if Trump loses the November fight for re-election, the plan could simply be abandoned.
Moreover, the Polish authorities must not forget that without the logistics facilities built over all these decades in Germany, the US military will not be able to conduct any serious activities on our or our eastern neighbors’ territory. In other words, without the consent and support of Germany, the combat capabilities of American troops on the Polish territory will drastically decrease – even if an additional thousand or two thousand soldiers are sent to the Vistula River.
Therefore, instead of enjoying frictions in Washington’s relations with Berlin, we should at the same time ensure good relations with both major political forces in the US and support the strengthening of European defense potential. Because no matter how much we would like to get closer to the Americans, Poland remains a European country. With Germany as a neighbor and main economic partner.
Editor’s comment: Today, President Andrzej Duda leaves for the United States to meet with President Donald Trump and discuss, among others, increasing the number of American soldiers stationed in Poland. The visit takes place 6 days before the presidential election in Poland, in which President Duda fights for a re-election.
The article was originally published in Polish at: https://liberte.pl/gdzie-dwoch-sie-bije-tam-polska-traci/
Translated by Olga Łabendowicz