Washington: ‘The European leaders are in a state of panic with the announcement made by US President Donald Trump regarding the withdrawal of US forces from Europe. Some leaders fear for their lives and have become restless with the concern that the European security will be under threat if the United States withdrew its military from Europe,’ claimed former US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta during an interview.
Europe is the largest US military command outside the country. There are more than 60,000 US soldiers deployed in various countries of Europe and there are permanent US military bases in some countries. There are 35,000 US troops deployed, only in Germany. Italy has 12,000 and the oldest ally, the United Kingdom has 8,500 US troops. As per study groups, the US military base in Spain has 3,500 troops.
Other than this, the US military unit is deployed in other European countries by rotation on a periodic basis. The United States has made this provision for protection of the allies and their interests, as a NATO member. But US President Donald Trump had opposed this European deployment of US troops. President Trump had also criticised that the United States had to bear a major portion of the NATO expenses and that the other countries were not willing to raise their contributions. It is binding on all the NATO members to make a contribution of 2% of the GDP for the NATO defence expenditure.
The United States, alone is spending more than 3.75% of its GDP on the organisation. Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia and Poland have also contributed to the expense. But the influential countries in Europe, France and Germany, are not willing to discharge their responsibility. If the European countries do not contribute to the NATO and do not bear the expenses of the United States military deployment in Europe, the United States will withdraw its military from Europe, warned President Trump.
Former Secretary of Defence Panetta, while taking to a US daily, claimed that this warning by President Trump has sent panic waves amongst the European leaders. Panetta further said that the European leaders fear that this is not just an announcement but the US President who has adopted the ‘America First’ policy will not hesitate to also implement the decision. Some European analysts have claimed that if the decision is implemented the European security will be threatened and countries like Russia who have been waiting for such an opportunity will take advantage of the situation.
The Eastern European countries have already proposed to allow the United States to build independent military bases and have expressed willingness to bear the expenses of the US troops. These include Poland and Norway. The United States is also showing interest in providing additional security to these countries. But the United States is complaining that the countries of France and Germany, considered to be close allies of the United States seem disinterested. This increases the importance of the claims made by former Secretary of Defence, Panetta.