US Forces in Berlin Are Not an 'Auxiliary Force' and Must Stay

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U.S. Army Special Operations soldiers conduct urban operations training near Stuttgart.
U.S. Army Special Operations soldiers assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct urban operations training on November 11, 2017 near Stuttgart, Germany. (U.S. Army/Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston.)

Meredith Shaw is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.

Daniel Davis' July 23 opinion piece, "America's Military Should Not Be Used as an Auxiliary Force to Defend Berlin," on the Trump administration's proposal to remove 10,000 troops from Germany startled me.

Many of this administration's proposals do not go further than a tweet, but that this one is supported by Davis and the Defense Priorities organization requires comment.

The premiers of four German states are requesting that Congress block President Donald Trump's tentative plan to withdraw nearly 10,000 troops from Germany. Davis states, "The plea was based on their perception of what's good for their county, however, and certainly not based on what's best for America."

Of course, the premiers’ plea supported their own interests. But at this moment in history, their plea -- indeed, NATO's plea -- to maintain these troops in Germany is also very, very much "what's best for America."

Davis maintains that the Cold War conditions that required this presence no longer exist. In fact, they had not existed for some time, but the troops remained as part of our participation in NATO, as a superpower presence to offset Russian aspirations and as the visual and symbolic reminder that the U.S. had the watch.

In addition, operations of purely U.S. interest sometimes pulled from those troops. Proximity can be critical. But the Cold War conditions Davis cites exist again. Russian aspirational plans are being executed. It took the Crimea; Ukraine is torn. Russia threatens action to alleviate perceived slights against Russian ethnic minorities in the Baltics, while it spies, assassinates on foreign soil, murders journalists, and meddles in elections and politics worldwide, including ours.

Putin is smiling -- all the time. U.S. leadership in the world is in question. Worse, U.S. intentions and reliability are doubted. We do not present a stable or consistent foreign policy. Regardless of the rhetoric, our official positions appear more pro-Warsaw Pact than pro-NATO. The president proposes leaving NATO. He also proposes Russia returning to the G-8 minus 1.

Not just Germany, but the world, needs affirmation that America intends to be the good guy and wants to retain its mantle as the pillar of light and liberal democracy that smashed fascism, communism and the Nazi state, and owned the 20th century. Yet our leadership's photo ops are not with our allies, but with the world dictators and abusers. Not in 40 years have U.S. assurances to NATO and our allies been more necessary, or more important to our standing in the world.

Davis cites the amount NATO members pay for their own defense. Yes, it can be improved. The German pipeline deal with Russia is analogous to our dependence on Chinese goods. Risk assessments are continuous for economically expedient solutions. To this argument, these issues are small potatoes. One cannot argue against Davis' position that the United States must pursue policies in our interests. Of course, it must.

Pulling troops out of Berlin at this moment is the worst thing we could do for the U.S.

-- The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to opinions@military.com for consideration.

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