Trump was reportedly surprised by the number of US troops stationed in Germany and expressed interest in pulling some of them out

  • The US Defense Department is reportedly analyzing the cost-to-benefit ratio of a large-scale withdrawal or transfer of US troops in Germany.
  • Trump, who has had a tenuous relationship with the German chancellor Angela Merkel, was said to have been surprised by the number of US troops stationed there.
  • Some US officials were said to have tried to dissuade Trump from taking action.
  • European officials were reportedly alarmed at the possibility of US troop movements — some of whom wondered whether Trump might use it as a negotiation tactic.
  • The National Security Council has downplayed the report.

The US Defense Department is reportedly analyzing whether or not it is feasible to conduct a large-scale withdrawal or transfer of US troops in Germany, according to a Washington Post report published on Friday.

President Donald Trump reportedly mulled the option after meeting with military aides earlier this year, US officials said in the report. Trump, who has had a tenuous relationship with the German chancellor Angela Merkel, was said to have been surprised by the number of US troops stationed in the region.

Some US officials were said to have tried to dissuade Trump from taking action.

Around 35,000 active-duty troops were stationed in Germany last year. US troop levels peaked at 274,119 in 1962, 17 years after World War II.

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President Donald Trump and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel
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President Donald Trump and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel
HAMBURG, GERMANY - JULY 06: German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives U.S. President Donald Trump in the Hotel Atlantic, on the eve of the G20 summit, for bilateral talks on July 6, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. Leaders of the G20 group of nations are meeting for the July 7-8 summit. Topics high on the agenda for the summit include climate policy and development programs for African economies. (Photo by Jens Schluter - Pool/Getty Images)
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel talks with U.S. President Donald Trump at a family photo session with the leaders of the G-7 summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman
CHARLEVOIX, CANADA - JUNE 9: In this photo provided by the German Government Press Office (BPA), German Chancellor Angela Merkel deliberates with US president Donald Trump on the sidelines of the official agenda on the second day of the G7 summit on June 9, 2018 in Charlevoix, Canada. Also pictured are (L-R) Larry Kudlow, director of the US National Economic Council, Theresa May, UK prime minister, Emmanuel Macron, French president, Angela Merkel, Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japanese deputy chief cabinet secretary, Shinzo Abe, Japan prime minister, Kazuyuki Yamazaki, Japanese senior deputy minister for foreign affairs, John Bolton, US national security adviser, and Donald Trump. Canada are hosting the leaders of the UK, Italy, the US, France, Germany and Japan for the two day summit. (Photo by Jesco Denzel /Bundesregierung via Getty Images)
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and Ivanka Trump speak during a roundtable discussion between U.S. President Donald Trump and German and U.S. business leaders on vocational training at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Donald Trump, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and France's President Emmanuel Macron chat during a family photo at the G7 Summit in the Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman
(L to R), Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, U.S. President Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeaupose for the family photo at the Women?s Entrepreneurship Finance event during the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Kappeler, Pool
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) talks to U.S President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump as they arrive to attend a performance by the La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra in the ancient Greek theatre as part of the G7 Summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
L-R: British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Donald Trump, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte pose for a family photo at the G7 Summit in the Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Donald Trump and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel depart after a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets U.S. President Donald Trump at the start of the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the White House Oval Office in Washington, U.S., April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump confer at the start of the first working session of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017. REUTERS/John MacDougall/Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend the Women?s Entrepreneurship Finance event during the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Kappeler, Pool
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump at the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt
German Chancellor Angela Merkel takes part in a family photo along with French President Emmanuel Macron, U.S.President Donald Trump, Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, South African President Jacob Zuma, Argentina's President Mauricio Macri, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Brazilian President Michel Temer, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, U.N. Secretary-general Antonio Guterres, Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Netherlands' Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Senegal's President Macky Sall, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Saudi Arabia Minister of State Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf, Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Secretary Jose Angel Gurria, World Trade Organization (WTO) Director Roberto Azevedo, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde, International Labour Organization (ILO) Director Guy Ryder, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Financial Stability Board (FSB) President Mark Carney and other leaders at the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets U.S. President Donald Trump on the eve of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Matthias Schrader,POOL
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump meet at the start of the "retreat meeting" on the first day of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017. REUTERS/John MACDOUGALL,POOL
U.S. President Donald Trump, Germany?s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni attend at the G7 summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
QUEBEC CITY, QC - JUNE 09: German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks towards US President Donald Trump, who arrived late for the Gender Equality Advisory Council working breakfast on the second day of the G7 Summit on June 9, 2018 in Quebec City, Canada. Canada are hosting the leaders of the UK, Italy, the US, France, Germany and Japan for the two day summit, in the town of La Malbaie. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump looks on during their joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
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In addition to the US presence in Germany, Trump was reportedly vexed by his belief that other NATO countries were not contributing enough to the organization. Trump has frequently vented his frustration and criticized NATO members for failing to abide by the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level that members agreed to during the alliance's inception.

European officials were reportedly alarmed at the possibiity of US troop movements — some of whom wondered whether Trump might use it as a negotiation tactic.

The National Security Council downplayed the significance and said it had not asked for a formal analysis on repositioning troops: "The Pentagon continuously evaluates US troop deployments," a statement from the NSC said, according to The Post. The statement added that the "analysis exercises" were "not out of the norm."

"The Pentagon regularly reviews force posture and performs cost-benefit analyses," Eric Pahon, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said in a statement to The Post. "This is nothing new. Germany is host to the largest US force presence in Europe — we remain deeply rooted in the common values and strong relationships between our countries. We remain fully committed to our NATO ally and the NATO alliance."

But despite repeated denials of a rift between US and NATO countries, Trump has suggested withdrawing from the 29-member alliance on multiple occasions.

"My statement on NATO being obsolete and disproportionately too expensive (and unfair) for the U.S. are now, finally, receiving plaudits," Trumps said during his 2016 presidential campaign on Twitter.

Trump has similarly suggested pulling US troops out of South Korea. Citing several people familiar with the discussions, The New York Times reported in May that he had ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for a drawdown.

"We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military," Trump said in a speech March. "We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea," Trump added. "Let's see what happens."

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