The United States will station 500 more military personnel in Germany in a bid to strengthen bilateral ties, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday at the start of his first official visit to Europe.
The move marks a clear break by President Joe Biden‘s administration with the more antagonistic stance toward Germany of his predecessor Donald Trump, who had moved to reduce the US troop presence in the country, a cornerstone of NATO security since the start of the Cold War.
“Today I am happy to announce that we will be increasing the US force presence in Germany,” Austin told reporters after talks with his counterpart Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
“I briefed the minister on our intention to permanently station approximately 500 additional US personnel in the Wiesbaden area as early as this fall.”
Biden’s government said in February that it would put those plans for a pullback on hold, in a step warmly welcomed by the German government.
The United States has had US troops stationed in Germany since World War II but their numbers have declined since the fall of the Berlin Wall from some 200,000 soldiers in 1990 to 34,500 today.
Although the prospect had been looming for years, Trump’s decision last July to redeploy 12,000 soldiers from Germany still came as a shock, particularly to towns that have built strong economic and cultural ties to the US military.
In a marked change in tone, Austin pledged that Germany would “continue to be an important security and economic partner” for the United States “for the years ahead.”
“This is why strengthening our relationship with Germany is a top priority for the Biden-Harris administration,” he said.