Austin heads to Europe where US troop presence in Germany is on the agenda
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 9, 2021
STUTTGART, Germany — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will discuss the future of the U.S. military in Germany before meeting with allies in Brussels and London during his first official visit to Europe next week, the Pentagon said.
Austin, who departs Washington on Saturday, also will stop in Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “reaffirm the enduring U.S. commitment” to the military partnership between the two countries, the Pentagon said Thursday.
In Europe, Austin is slated to meet with commanders at U.S. European and Africa Command headquarters in Stuttgart and also hold talks with his German counterparts in Berlin.
The visit to Europe comes as the Pentagon reviews a plan by the former Trump administration that calls for pulling nearly 12,000 troops out of Germany, and repositioning them in the U.S. and other parts of Europe. Additionally, the plan would move EUCOM and AFRICOM out of Stuttgart.
Austin also will meet with U.S. troops and senior commanders in Stuttgart, the Pentagon said.
In Berlin, he’ll speak with German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and other officials to reinforce the value of the bilateral defense relationship, the Pentagon said.
“Other topics of discussion include combatting the malign influence of our shared strategic rivals, and continued dialogue on U.S. force posture in Germany and elsewhere,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
Earlier this year, President Joe Biden announced he was putting a hold on the drawdown plans in Germany while the Pentagon conducts a review of basing arrangements in Germany and elsewhere. That review is expected to be completed this summer.
Berlin has welcomed Biden’s freeze on the Trump plan to cut back in Germany. But there are other areas of disagreement between Washington and Berlin, which could come up during talks. They include Germany’s plan to open a new gas pipeline with Russia, which the Biden administration regards as a threat to Europe’s energy security.
After his stop in Germany, Austin will head to Brussels to meet with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and discuss how the allies can deal with “destabilizing behavior by Russia, a rising China, terrorism, and global challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change,” the Pentagon said.
The trip will wrap up with a stop in London for a meeting with defense officials.