Wednesday, 12 Aug 2020

Merkel on brink: Chancellor warned of economic collapse amid US threat to withdraw troops

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Angela Merkel in June was warned Donald Trump is considering removing over one-third of US troops from bases across Germany. The US Government has yet to confirm whether they will proceed with the plan but the Chancellor has been warned severe economic consequences if Mr Trump gives the go-ahead. Kaiserslautern, southwest Germany, has been heavily depending on the several air and army bases littering the area but mayor Klaus Weichen admitted the President’s threat is “very worrying” for the economy.

Speaking to France 24, Mr Weichen said: “The army employs around 6,000 locals.

“And then there’s the Americans’ spending power, in hotels and restaurants and businesses of all kinds. It’s all very worrying.”

Kaiserlautern and nearby towns have been home to over half of US soldiers based in Germany and the presence of troops generates an estimated $1 billion every year.

The US Army and Air Force began building their presence in what they dubbed K-Town between 1950 and 1955, and have since become the largest US military community outside of the United States.

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The Department of Defense (DoD) has yet to clarify what their plans are for German-based soldiers but the prospect of their departure has already sparked major concerns among local businesses.

Tailor Sadin Kocaaslan said around 98 percent of his business is connected to the US Army and the US Air Force, fuelling fear the withdrawal of troops could leave Kaiserlautern a “ghost town.”

Mr Kocaaslan said: “We hope it’s a joke of some kind. He says a lot of things and then something different the next day.

“In any case, if they leave, Kaiserslautern will be a ghost town.”

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Christine Schneider, the head of the local German-American Women’s Group, said there is a lot of questions bouncing around the German and US communities but little answers.

Mrs Schneider said: “I work for the Americans. Everyone is asking a lot of questions, everyone is worried, and you can feel it.

“But for now, all we can do is wait for an official decision and I hope the damage won’t be major.”

According to the DoD, Kaiserslautern is home to over 50,000 military personnel and their families.

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Richard Grenell, the former US Ambassador to Berlin, told daily Bild Zeitung President Trump wanted to send a clear message to Chancellor Merkel that “American taxpayers are getting a little bit tired of paying too much for the defence of other countries”.

Mr Grenell said the US leader had signalled to Mrs Merkel his intention at the 70th commemoration of NATO’s founding in August 2019 but he had been dismissed widely as a “PR stunt”.

He added: “We went to the Nato summit in London last September, and we talked about the troop withdrawal then.

“No one should be surprised that Donald Trump is bringing the troops home.”

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