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NATO chief tries to reassure allies after US announces plan to decrease forces in Germany

Jens Stoltenberg speaks at the Nordic Council Session 2010. (Magnus Fröderberg/Nordic Co-operation/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

NATO’s chief says that the United States intends to consult with allies on plans to draw down U.S. forces in Germany, plans that have rattled some members of the 30-member alliance.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also said that the alliance had no intentions to deploy land-based nuclear missiles in Europe, even as Russia deploys missiles that Washington says violated a key Cold War-era arms treaty.

Speaking to reporters following a June 17 meeting of alliance defense ministers, the NATO chief said the subject of the U.S. plans for decreasing its troop numbers in Germany came up for discussion.

He said U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper spoke with NATO allies via video conference, and indicated that Washington would consult them on the next steps of the intended drawdown.

Earlier this month, U.S. President Donald Trump surprised many allies when he announced a plan to cut troops based in Germany by a third, to 25,000.

Trump said he was cutting troops to punish Germany, accusing Berlin of not contributing enough to the alliance. Germany has denied Trump’s assertions, and has pledged to increase defense spending but won’t meet agreed-upon targets for several years.

“I welcome the fact that Secretary Esper in the meeting with NATO defense minsters was clear both on the U.S. commitment [to Europe] but also that the U.S. will consult allies on the way forward,” Stoltenberg said.

“No final decision has been made on how and when to implement the U.S. plan,” he said.

Stoltenberg also said some allies were spending more on nuclear deterrence capabilities, in response to what many members see as increasingly aggressive moves by Russia.

The U.S. accused Russia of building, then deploying, missiles in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.

Last year, the Trump administration announced it was withdrawing from the pact, leading to the agreeement’s collapse.

“We will maintain our deterrence and defenses, but we will not mirror Russia,” he said. “We have no intention to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe.”