President Donald Trump suggested on Wednesday that he would send some of the more than 9,000 troops he plans to withdraw from Germany over its eastern border to Poland.
“They asked us if we would send some additional troops,” Trump told reporters during a news conference at the White House with the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, noting that the shift would be “just to start” and that Poland had offered to pay for it.
Trump blindsided allies both at home and abroad with the announcement earlier this month that he was looking to reduce the U.S. military presence in Germany, a move seen as an affront to German leaders and beneficial to Russia. The president has faced fierce opposition to the draw-down even among his own party but has stood firm in his decision, implying the shift is linked to his repeated complaints that Germany is not paying its fair share of costs for NATO.
The president’s assertion that he would “probably” move troops from Germany to Poland comes days after his national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, wrote in an op-ed that the Pentagon “may” relocate the soldiers elsewhere in Europe but could also redeploy them to the Indo-Pacific or send them back to the U.S.
“Poland is one of the few countries that are fulfilling their obligations,” Trump said on Wednesday, referring to a voluntary agreement that member states of the defense pact spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense.
Trump admonished Germany for its failure to reach that commitment, though the agreement reached in 2014 set 2024 as the goal to meet that threshold.
Roughly 35,000 U.S. troops and their families are permanently stationed in Germany, which is considered by some to be a critical staging base for operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Troop levels in Germany are authorized to go as high as 52,000, a number that Trump mistakenly stated as the current number of troops there. The president has said he wants that number to drop to 25,000.
Critics of the move have protested a decrease in the U.S. presence in Europe, in the face of increased Russian aggression and Moscow’s complaints about the size of the U.S. force there.
Asked what Duda thought of the impending withdrawal, the Polish president explained that while he would not presume to tell Trump where to send U.S. troops, he would not deny that he asked Trump not to withdraw American forces from Europe.