Utah Sen. Mitt Romney not only criticized President Donald Trump long and loudly for planning to remove thousands of troops from Germany, he has apparently successfully helped to block it.
A House-Senate conference working out differences on the annual defense bill included a provision pushed by Romney and allies to block any significant troop removal.
“Congress made the right decision,” he said in a statement.
“At a time when we should be focused on linking arms with our allies to address threats from Russia and China, a withdrawal of our troops would be a grave error with harmful and lasting consequences,” he said.
“This provision signals support for our friend Germany and reflects a commitment to our mutual relationship, which is vital to our national security interests and our ability to deter foreign aggression.”
Romney was joined by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Chris Coons, D-Del.; Tim Kaine, D-Va.; and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. in introducing and pushing the amendment.
Germany is a hub for U.S. operations in the Middle East and Africa.
Romney slammed the proposal for a large troop withdrawal from there since Trump made it. The move came after Trump had branded Germany “delinquent” for failing to meet a NATO goal set in 2014 for members to halt budget cuts and move toward spending at least 2% of gross national product on defense by 2024.
And the president asserted that the Germans had long shortchanged the United States on trade and defense, declaring that “until they pay” more for their own defense, he will reduce U.S. troops.
Romney said then, “It is a gift to Russia coming at a time when we just have learned of its support for the Taliban and reports of bounties on killing American troops. The move may temporarily play well in domestic politics, but its consequences will be lasting and harmful to American interests.”
Overall, the United States has about 47,000 troops and civilian personnel in Germany, spread out across a number of bases, headquarters and smaller installations. Most of the 35,000 active-duty forces are in a handful of larger Army and Air Force bases including Ramstein Air Base, a hub in the region. There also are 2,600 National Guard and Reserve forces in Germany, and almost 12,000 civilians working for the services or for the Defense Department.
While Romney had attacked Trump’s proposal, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, had supported it.
“Reducing the heavy concentration of troops in Germany enhances our defense posture,” he tweeted in July. “Repositioning U.S. troops East will clearly enhance Russian deterrence.”
Stewart added, “I hope that members of Congress will take time to really understand this issue.”