German government officials are miffed and American officials were caught off guard when Trump announced that he would be withdrawing American troops permanently based in Germany, but the Russians are apparently pretty happy about it.
Bloomberg reports that news of Trump's withdrawal was received well in Moscow where analysts say it's in Russia's interests that America's presence is reduced.
The president’s decision to withdraw more than a quarter of the U.S. troops stationed in her country leaves Chancellor Angela Merkel exposed at a moment when she’s facing growing pressure to get tough with Vladimir Putin and was welcomed in the Russian capital.
“It’s spitting in Merkel’s face,” said Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian diplomat who’s now a foreign-policy analyst. “But it’s in our interests.”
The Russians are pleased, but there's still some reasons to think the withdrawal may not actually happen.
The German government confirmed this morning that they finally received word from Washington on the matter, but the official word is that a withdrawal is still being actively considered, not that it's a done deal. Some German officials still believe this is a political trial balloon and I lean toward believing that myself. It's certainly a political move in any case. Yesterday we learned that the Pentagon wasn't involved in discussing a potential withdrawal so we know there's no military or strategic rationale for it.
And speaking of defense officials being out of the loop -- Bloomberg reports that State Department officials were also out of the loop.
Two people familiar with the matter said former U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell had talked for some time about his desire to get the U.S. to reduce its troop presence in Germany, possibly by shifting some forces to Poland or by slashing troop levels outright. But the first many senior leaders at the State Department learned that the plan had been formalized was from the news stories announcing the cut.
Peter Beyer, a senior lawmaker with Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and Germany’s transatlantic coordinator, said Monday that he was still unsure whether the reports were a “trial balloon” or a Trump campaign ploy.
If neither the Pentagon or the State Department were involved in this, that leaves just Trump and Richard Grenell getting together to sketch out a world-altering decision on the back of a cocktail napkin.
Grenell seems like someone who should be under counterintelligence surveillance if he isn't already and he's probably the one who first leaked the news of a withdrawal to the Wall Street Journal since no one else appears to have known about it.