Despite his complaints about burden-sharing, Mr. Trump, as president, has overseen an increase in American military spending in Europe. Congress has bolstered the European Deterrence Initiative, which pays for exercises and troop rotations, and the military has increased its presence in Poland.
The troop cut for Germany would be the largest of Mr. Trump’s tenure. The United States began building its forces back up in Europe after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. But General Hodges and other analysts noted that Russia had not taken any steps to reduce its aggressive stance in Europe that would warrant a scaled-back American presence.
“What has the Kremlin done to lower concerns about its aggressive behavior in the region?” he said. “Why should they get a reward of a one-third reduction of U.S. capability in Germany without them doing one single good thing?”
The withdrawal of troops will be welcomed in Moscow as another sign of division in the Atlantic alliance and of fading American interest in global leadership. While the drawdown should not immediately affect NATO’s deterrence forces in Poland and the Baltic States, the drawdown is bound to complicate American military logistics and readiness.
A cap of 25,000 troops could force an even greater cut in forces in Germany. Troops frequently rotate into the country for exercises, drills and training, said General Hodges, now based in, Frankfurt, as a scholar with the Center for European Policy Analysis. If no more than 25,000 are allowed, the number permanently stationed in the country might have to be cut deeper to accommodate those rotations.
“While we have no announcements at this time, as commander in chief, President Trump continually reassesses the best posture for the United States military forces and our presence overseas,” John Ullyot, the National Security Council spokesman, said in a statement. “The United States remains committed to working with our strong ally Germany to ensure our mutual defense, as well as on many other important issues.”
Senior administration officials have been mulling the cut since last year, although a person briefed on the planning said that it had not been vetted by the National Security Council’s traditional policy deliberation process.