Germany is interested in decreasing the number of American troops in its territory, taking care to increase its sovereignty and aiming at greater relevance in the global geopolitical scenario. On the other hand, there are countries that seek to further strengthen their ties with Washington to achieve greater relevance and receive protection in eventual international conflicts, such as Poland, which is proposing to receive American troops evacuated from Germany. But the mere Polish interest in submitting to the United States is not enough to guarantee the reception of the American military.
Currently, 34,000 American soldiers are deployed in Germany, in addition to thousands of both American and German civilians working on military bases. Although Germany is progressively decreasing its subordination to Washington and seeking to free itself from foreign military occupation, it is not only its interests that are taken into account by the American government in the decision to withdraw troops: currently, keeping this number of soldiers in Germany is not interesting to the US itself. In fact, despite the timid German insubordination, there was a conjunction of interests between Washington and Berlin on the issue of diminishing troops – the United States wants to allocate troops in other parts of Europe and Germany wants to cut costs and increase sovereignty.
On July 29, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper declared that Washington plans to transfer about 11,900 US military personnel located in Germany to other places in the coming weeks: approximately 6,400 troops will return to the US, while another 5,600 will be relocated in other European NATO member countries. Among the soldiers who will remain on European soil, a combat squadron will be deployed in Italy, close to the Black Sea, with the aim of increasing NATO’s operational capacity in the region. Esper also expressed an interest in sending troops to Poland and the Baltic States but did not make it clear whether this is indeed an American priority. On the same occasion, the commander of the US European Command, General Tod Wolters, said that the American headquarters on the old continent will be transferred from Germany to Belgium, as part of the plan to reconfigure the American occupation of Europe.
As we can see, sending troops evacuated from Germany to Poland is a possibility and does not seem to be a priority for American strategists. In fact, the plan is much broader than a simple transfer of military personnel from one country to another. The displacement of soldiers is part of a new American military strategy for Europe, which seeks to reconfigure the geographic distribution of the American military on European soil considering a number of factors – such as the internal NATO crisis, the deterioration of the alliance between Washington and Western Europe and the intention to monitor Eastern Europe.
Since the beginning of the discussion about American troops in Poland, it has always been clear that Poland was the most interested in the negotiations. The government of Andrzej Duda, absolutely aligned with Washington, sees in the presence of the Americans a possible protection against “external threats” and therefore is willing to not only receive the troops but also to pay for them – as Donald Trump made it clear when he spoke about the case. Germany currently pays for the American military and civilians employed at bases in its territory. Basically, Poland wants to occupy the space provided by Germany and is willing to invest billions of its public coffers with salaries of American military personnel, simply to strengthen its ties with the hegemonic power and raise its status to one of regional power – American satellite – in Eastern Europe (where the US has a particular interest in observing Russia.
Apparently, sending troops to Poland, under these conditions, is an interesting possibility for the United States, which will not have to bear the costs of soldiers and will be able to place more military personnel close to Russia. Now, it remains to be seen whether Trump really wants to deploy more soldiers in that region. Certainly, there are groups behind the American government that want to confront Russia more and more, but there is also a wing more concerned with international security and that seeks a more moderate policy in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world. The tension between these two groups has marked several recent events in American foreign policy – we must wait to know which of the two sides will triumph on this issue.
In short, there is no guarantee that Duda’s ambitions to make Poland the “new Germany” will materialize. It seems that, in fact, the plans of the greatest American strategists are different and do not involve increasing the number of soldiers in the East. However, it is possible that the internal pressure of the American Deep State to increase the aggressiveness against Russia and the high Polish interest may will get the upper hand in this dispute.
Currently, Germany and Poland want to increase their international importance and are betting on two opposite directions: one wants to get rid of the USA and the other to subordinate itself even more.
Contributed by Lucas Leiroz, a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.