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World

'We Took Note': German Ambassador On The Withdrawal Of U.S. Troops From Germany

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

You could be forgiven for thinking the Atlantic Ocean feels a little wider these days. Not only is it harder to cross with the EU barring travel from the U.S. due to our surge in coronavirus cases, there's also a growing policy gulf between the U.S. and our European allies since President Trump took office. Take the largest economy in Europe - Germany. Just this week, President Trump approved a plan to pull nearly 10,000 American troops out of Germany. The president has long accused Germany of not contributing enough to the NATO alliance.

So here to discuss the relationship between our countries is Germany's ambassador to the United States, Emily Haber. Ambassador, welcome.

EMILY HABER: Thank you.

KELLY: I want to start with this development of U.S. forces. We should note thousands of American troops will stay in Germany. But this does represent a substantial reduction. What is your reaction?

HABER: We took note. We took note of the announcement, and we don't know any specifics as yet. We know the number. And we know the cap, which will be at 25,000.

KELLY: 25,000 American troops that will stay in Germany.

HABER: That will stay and 9,500 will leave. And it's worth explaining, if I may, that today's presence of U.S. troops is not only about protecting Germany, it's actually protecting trans-Atlantic security interests. It is bolstering the security of NATO allies and deterring Russia and projecting American power in Africa and in the Middle East.

KELLY: Did you get a heads up about this troop drawdown, or did the announcement come as a surprise to you?

HABER: It was announced, and we took a note of the announcement. And as I said, we...

KELLY: But did you learn when the rest of us did?

HABER: Yes.

KELLY: Is that the way things have historically worked?

HABER: It is - what has historically happened in many decades is that the American posture - military posture is changing and is being adapted.

KELLY: And I just want to make sure that I understand the point that you were making earlier. It sounded as though you were suggesting there are consequences here for Germany, there are consequences here for America's national security.

HABER: Well, I don't know the specific on how the troop withdrawal is going to be organized. I'm just observing the fact that the American presence is about projecting power beyond the NATO realm and thereby servicing American interests, which I consider to be trans-Atlantic interests.

KELLY: Let me turn you to another development that involves both U.S. and German security, which is whether Russia has paid bounties to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. There has been some reporting that Britain and other European allies were briefed on the intelligence about this. Was Germany?

HABER: I cannot comment on that.

KELLY: Can you comment on whether you have any information about German troops and whether they have been targeted in this alleged plot? Germany has troops on the ground right now in Afghanistan.

HABER: I have no information on that.

KELLY: And just to be clear, you have no information or you can't speak about it?

HABER: I have no information on that.

KELLY: OK. I think it is fair to say this administration has taken a much harder line with Germany and the rest of NATO than other recent American presidents. How would you describe the relationship between our countries?

HABER: Well, the observations in place that the issue of burden-sharing or the issue of a trade deficit, these are old issues. We have a lot of experiences in arguing them out and finding solutions. Where we differ nowadays, at times, is institutions and treaties and agreements and organizations. But for a country like Germany, we need it in order to be able to stand our ground and defend our interests. For the United States, this may be slightly different because you are the single-most powerful country in the world. If you decide that you will rely on self-reliance, that's another story. Small- and medium-sized countries cannot.

KELLY: That's Emily Haber, Germany's ambassador to the United States.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOCOTRONIC'S "DIE UNENDLICHKEIT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.