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US may trigger arms race cycle in Europe by moving troops from Germany to Poland — expert

He believes that the political elites of Germany and to a large extent of the United States will blame the likely troop pullout on the "Trump factor" and try to wait till the November elections

MOSCOW, June 17. /TASS/. The US authorities may make a decision to redeploy part of their military contingent from Germany to Poland, thus triggering another arms race cycle in Europe, the Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the National Research University-Higher School of Economics, member of the Valdai discussion club Dmitry Suslov has said.

In a situation where US President Donald Trump declared his intention to cut military presence in Germany it is essential for Russia to understand where these forces may be relocated. "If they are pulled out back to the United States, this will open up major opportunities in front of Russian-European relations for strengthening the dialogue between Russia and the European Union in the field of European security. This development would be favorable for Russia," Suslov said. "If any considerable part of this contingent is redeployed to Poland, this will certainly exacerbate the Russia-NATO confrontation and the situation in the field of European security and worsen the militarization of Europe."

The latter option would be tantamount to reincarnation of NATO’s forward deployment and Cold War era strategies, Suslov said. "It implies the possibility of quick military aggression and prompt military strike. Should NATO’s contingent in Poland be strengthened in this way, Russia will have to take the corresponding retaliatory steps to ward of this threat," Suslov explained. "Russia will be building up military infrastructures on its Western borders and deploying weapon systems capable of instantly hitting and eliminating these bases. The missile bases. This will trigger another spiral of the arms race in Europe."

Also, hypothetical redeployment of US forces from Germany to Poland would be an outright violation of the Russia-NATO Founding Act, by which the alliance declared it has no plans for creating significant military infrastructures in the territory of the newly-incorporated members.

Europe’s reaction

Suslov believes that the political elites of Germany and to a large extent of the United States will blame the likely troop pullout on the "Trump factor" and try to wait till the November elections. Should the Democrat candidate, Joe Biden, emerge the winner, they will try to shift the process into reverse. "There will be a serious attempt on both sides to present this not as a fundamental crisis in relations, but as a temporary rift for which a not very balanced and rationally-minded president of the United States was responsible."

"Bringing the forces back home to the US would be a hard blow on transatlantic relations and foment speculations in Europe about strategic autonomy and the need for creating armed forces independent from the US and NATO. It would greatly harm trust towards the United States," Suslov said. "But I suspect that the point at issue is Trump’s intention to move troops from Germany to other NATO countries, including Poland. If that is the case, it will be not a step to downgrade US obligations towards Europe, but public and demonstrative punishment of Germany, which has remained the main site of the US military’s presence on the ground since the beginning of the Cold War."

Suslov stressed Trump’s annoyance over Germany’s steadfast refusal to increase defense spending, "in other words, to spend more on US military equipment and weapons", and over Germany’s support for the Nord Stream-2 project in defiance US sanctions.

"He wishes to punish Germany in public. The question remains whether this intention will materialize, and if he will be elected for a second term," Suslov said. "If Trump fails to achieve the enforcement of this decision by January and if he loses the election, then the next Administration may well revise it."

Also, the expert recalled that Trump had repeatedly declared plans for the pullout of US troops from various countries, but these statements never entailed any action.

On Monday, Trump said the United States was going to cut its military contingent in Germany to 25,000, if Germany refused to pay for its accommodation and settle debts to NATO. Currently 52,000 US troops are stationed in Germany on the permanent basis.