Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Less NATO: Trump Strategy

It is being run as page one news with state-run Channel One (ARD) in Germany.

Donald Trump's speech yesterday?  It hit on his view of the US and NATO involvement.  He noted NATO has an expensive price tag and questioned the extent of US participation.  He kinda promised that he'd keep the US commitment to the world.....but likely scale back or reduce US troops in Europe.

In relation to the view.....he bluntly said that if defense was a big deal.....countries like Germany would have to increase their comment to it.

I suggested this view would come about four months ago.  He's basically laid down the cards to this poker game, and put various governments in Europe in a bind.  They've all gone through a downward spiral on defense spending since the mid-1990s.  Money was shifted from defense programs to social programs.  Various governments....not just Germany....benefited from this policy shift.

What happens when we get to the middle of 2017, and the first round of structural cuts occur, with thirty-five percent of the US troop strength redeploys elsewhere (like the Pacific)?  Some in the current government will be in an awkward position.  They can't raise taxes further to cover increased military obligations....people are taxed out as it is currently.  They relied upon the US to a great extent for the past fifty years.  The bare-essentials military design of today?  Well.....there's just no money to go past that point.

My prediction on what comes?  There aren't that many Air Force installations left (Lakenheath, Spangdahlem, Ramstein, Aviano, and Incirlik).  Mildenhall was already put on a closure list.   I think both Aviano and Ramstein are locked down and will be the last installations to close.  I think Spangdahlem and Incirlik could easily make the list for a Trump closure.

On the Army side, I think Baumholder would likely be the first candidate for the Trump plan.  Removing it's footprint would take out around 13,000 (military and dependent) from the US footprint in Germany.  It's possible that the Army's unit in Camp Darby would be the one on the Trump closure plan.

What happens after this downsizing?  Putin might shuffle through some minor demonstrations of military power, and German politicians will sit there in a tough position.  They can't carve up the budget to do much more than what they currently spend on defense.  Grow their military?  Just going out to hustle up five-thousand more troops, their associated helicopters, tanks, weapons or naval ships?  Various social programs would have to take a major hit.  This talk of the 2019 deadline approaching where the big tax deal to renovate eastern Germany after the wall went down....will cease?  There's been months of talk that the tax should not end but get shifted to infrastructure for the rest of Germany.  Billions per year are in this bundle.  Now?  They might actually have to keep the tax going (something people really get angry about) and spend it on military items?

In the mid-1980s.....when I was based here as a Air Force member....I just never saw the US position ever decreasing.  Today?  I'm probably in full agreement with Trump....times have changed.  It's a different atmosphere and values.  The fact that an extensive amount of the natural gas that Germans use to heat their homes....come from Russia....ought to suggest some stable environment existing and German willingness to not view them as a potential threat.  So why pay for some fake defensive requirements?

For me personally, the big shock would be if the US Army in Wiesbaden gets told to shut down in four years and leave.  In that case, I will probably pour a stiff drink and imagine how the locals get stuck then with so much real estate and make use out of it.

This all making Germans anti-Trump?  It puts them into a difficult position.  They often whined about the US....so it should make them happy that they no longer have them around to kick.  But there were millions that the US pumped through into various German communities....via housing, tourism, food, and beverage.  It'll be a mixed feeling.

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