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Trump says US to pull some troops from Germany over #NATO spending feud

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President Donald Trump (pictured) said on Monday (15 June) he would cut the number of U.S. troops in Germany to 25,000, faulting the close US ally for failing to meet NATO’s defence spending target and accusing it of taking advantage of America on trade, write Jeff Mason and Arshad Mohammed.

The reduction of about 9,500 troops would be a remarkable rebuke to one of the closest U.S. trading partners and could erode faith in a pillar of postwar European security: that US forces would defend alliance members against Russian aggression.

It was not clear whether Trump’s stated intent, which first emerged in media reports on 5 June, would actually come to pass given criticism from some of the president’s fellow Republicans in Congress who have argued a cut would be a gift to Russia.

Speaking to reporters, Trump accused Germany of being “delinquent” in its payments to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and vowed to stick with the plan unless Berlin changed course.

“So we’re protecting Germany and they’re delinquent. That doesn’t make sense. So I said, we’re going to bring down the count to 25,000 soldiers,” Trump said, adding that “they treat us very badly on trade” but providing no details.

NATO in 2014 set a target that each of its 30 members should spend 2% of GDP on defense. Most, including Germany, do not.

Trump’s remarks were the first official confirmation of the planned troop cut, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and later confirmed to Reuters by a senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

That official said it stemmed from months of work by the U.S. military and had nothing to do with tensions between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who thwarted his plan to host an in-person Group of Seven (G7) summit.

Asked about Trump’s statement, German Ambassador to the United States Emily Haber said US troops were in Europe to defend transatlantic security and to help the United States project its power in Africa and Asia.

“This is about transatlantic security but also about American security,” she told a virtual think tank audience, saying U.S.-German security cooperation would remain strong and that her government had been informed of the decision.

Last week, sources told Reuters that German officials as well a number of US officials at the White House, State Department and Pentagon were surprised by the Wall Street Journal report and they offered explanations ranging from Trump’s pique over the G7 to the influence of Richard Grenell, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany and a Trump loyalist.

“There is sure to be significant bipartisan opposition to this move in Congress, so it is possible any actual moves are significantly delayed or even never implemented,” said Phil Gordon of the Council on Foreign Relations think tank,

“This move will further erode allies’ faith in NATO and U.S. defense guarantees,” Gordon added, saying it may also “weaken the deterrence of Russia or anyone else who might threaten a NATO member.”

Defence

Biden to join eastern European NATO states summit, focus seen on Ukraine

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US President Joe Biden (pictured) joined a virtual summit of eastern European NATO states held in the Romanian capital Bucharest on Monday (10 May), Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said, with a focus on security in the Black Sea region and Ukraine.

The summit of the Bucharest Nine, a group of European countries on the eastern edge of NATO, will be jointly hosted by Iohannis and Poland's President Andrzej Duda and aims at coordinating the security positions of countries in the region.

"Glad to welcome Joe Biden to the Bucharest9 Summit which I host in Bucharest today," Iohannis said on his Twitter account.

"Together with President Andrzej Duda we'll also welcome ... Jens Stoltenberg in preparation of NATO Summit, focusing on Transatlantic ties, NATO 2030, defence and deterrence on the eastern flank."

Biden, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and the presidents of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia will video-conference into the gathering.

"In ... the statement that the nine will publish after the meeting there will be the issue of security in the Black Sea region and the related security issues in Ukraine," the head of Poland's National Security Bureau, Pawel Soloch, told reporters.

Earlier this month, Washington said it could increase security help for Kyiv after Russia moved troops near its border with Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops are in conflict with Moscow-backed separatists.

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Cyber-espionage

Commission makes €11 million available to strengthen cybersecurity capabilities and co-operation

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Commission will make €11 million of funding available for 22 new projects seeking to strengthen the European Union's capacity to deter and mitigate cyber-threats and incidents, by employing the latest technologies. The projects, which have been selected following a recent call for proposals under the Connecting Europe Facility programme, will support various cybersecurity organisations in 18 Member States. The beneficiaries of the funding include Computer Security Incident Response teams, operators of essential services in the health, energy, transport and other sectors, as well as bodies dealing with the cybersecurity certification and testing, as defined in the EU Cybersecurity Act. They will start working after the summer on tools and skills necessary to comply with the requirements set by the NIS Directive and the Cybersecurity Act, while at the same time they will engage in activities aimed to enhance cooperation at the EU level. So far the EU has funded almost €47.5m to reinforce EU cybersecurity between 2014 and 2020, through the Connecting Europe Facility programme. Furthermore, more than €1 billion under the Digital Europe Programme will be directed towards the areas of focus of the new EU Cybersecurity Strategy. More information is available here. More information about Europe's actions to strengthen cybersecurity capacities is available here and EU-funded cybersecurity projects can be found here.

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Defence

Military leaders address collective Arctic security issues

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Military leaders from 11 European and North American nations concluded two days of strategic discussions focused on Arctic security issues during the annual Arctic Security Forces Roundtable (ASFR) last week. While the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic delayed plans to meet in person in Rovaniemi, Finland, the Finnish military leveraged virtual technology to host the in-depth, time-sensitive discussions focused on current and emerging High North security issues.

Established in 2010 by Norway and the United States, the ASFR promotes Arctic cooperation among military forces that operate in and around the Arctic region, while also supporting nations that promote peaceful development of the Arctic region and adhere to international-rule-based order.

“The amount of focused attention and activity – commercially, militarily, environmentally – in the Arctic, along with the region’s continued strategic importance, makes this high-level military gathering an imperative for us,” said US Army Maj. Gen. Charles Miller, US European, Command’s (USEUCOM) director of plans, policy, strategy and capabilities. “From the issues we discuss to the relationships we continue to foster and forge, this roundtable is truly an invaluable forum for our nations.”

This flag-and-general-officer level, military-to-military forum, co-chaired by Norway and the U.S., to promote regional understanding and enhance multilateral security cooperation is currently the only military forum focused on the Arctic region’s unique challenging security dynamics and architecture, and full range of military capabilities and co-operation.

"The round table serves a critical role in ensuring that each participating senior military leader representing some 11 nations gains a clearer understanding of the Arctic," said Commodore Solveig Krey, Defence Staff Norway’s Assistant Chief of Staff Operations. "This roundtable, working in concert with the full range of bilateral and multilateral exercises and operations that occur throughout the year, helps support a secure, stable Arctic region where nations work cooperatively to address security challenges of collective concern."

During this year’s ASFR, participants discussed the roles of the Arctic Council, European Union and NATO, and those organizations’ aims to foster governance and cooperation in the region. Each participating nation detailed its own national Arctic strategy, senior representatives from NATO presented the alliance’s current Arctic outlook, and the participants addressed important transportation and environmental issues.

About USEUCOM

US European Command (USEUCOM) is responsible for US military operations across Europe, portions of Asia and the Middle East, the Arctic and Atlantic Ocean. USEUCOM is comprised of more than 64,000 military and civilian personnel and works closely with NATO Allies and partners. The command is one of two U.S. forward-deployed geographic combatant commands headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. For more information about USEUCOM, click here.

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