6 June 2020   Leave a comment

The Trump Administration has notified Germany that it plans to reduce the number of US troops stationed in Germany as part of NATO by 9,500 from the 34,500 permanently assigned. The troops will not necessarily be coming back to the US–many of them will be moved to Poland, another member of NATO. The decision elicited different responses from German politicians: conservative politicians, including members of Chancellor Merkel’s coalition, criticized the move, while left-wing politicians supported the decision. The Pentagon denied that the decision was influenced by the strained relations between President Trump and Chancellor Merkel, but it is hard to avoid that conclusion. Apparently the US did not inform Germany about the move prior to its announcement, and German officials learned of it from media reports.

The move comes as tensions between Russia and NATO members continues to increase. Arms control treaties, such as the Open Skies Treaty and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, have lapsed, and there has been increased activities in the development of nuclear forces. The whole arms control framework that has been laboriously constructed sine the early 1960s seems to be disintegrating. Writing for Lawfare, Justin Key Canfil points out:

“Since the formal decision was announced, a number of nuclear experts have also chimed in, warning of the dangers. Open Skies is the second U.S.-Russia arms control regime that the Trump administration has defenestrated in as many years, and experts worry that the landmark New START agreement—which stabilizes the nuclear balance, helps prevent costs from spiraling and enjoys bipartisan support—is next on the chopping block. There is still no clear explanation for why the Trump administration believes withdrawal serves U.S. interests.

“Arms control is a cheaper and safer alternative to military competition as long as compliance can be monitored, but as scholars Andrew J. Coe and Jane Vaynman have noted recently, sensitivities to intrusive monitoring can derail otherwise acceptable agreements. Open Skies is remarkable in that, by expressly facilitating overflights between the two countries, it overcame the ‘intrusive inspection’ barrier that frustrated so many U.S.-Russia arms control efforts throughout the Cold War. Moreover, the U.S. effectively secured the right to monitor compliance with the parameters of Open Skies under provisions in the treaty that guarantee the U.S. the right to physically inspect Russian sensor equipment and any data collected during overflights. The treaty is one of the few remaining avenues for arms control compliance verification that doesn’t rely on ‘national technical means‘—a country’s unilateral ability to spy or observe from afar.

Additionally, NATO has been conducting military drills close to the Russian border which the Russians regard as provocative. Despite President Trump’s urging, the members of the G-7 refused to consider re-inviting Russia to join the group, a slight that will only deepen the mistrust between NATO and Russia. It is difficult for me to find any coherent thread in US policy toward Russia and how it regards its allies.

Posted June 6, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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