Germans would actually welcome the withdrawal of American troops stationed in their country, a new poll has found – as Donald Trump threatens to pull the plug on military support.
The finding comes on the first day of a Nato summit in which the US president is urging Europe to spend more on defence if it wants to continue to receive American military protection.
But far from being seen as a threat, a YouGov poll for the dpa news agency found that more Germans would welcome the departure of the 35,000-strong American force than would oppose it.
42 per cent said they supported withdrawal while just 37 per cent wanted the soldiers to stay, with 21 per cent undecided.
Last month the US media reported that the US government was in the process of assessing the cost of keeping troops in Germany ahead of a possible withdrawal, citing Pentagon sources.
But the policy of actually pulling out of the country has not actually reached the negotiating table in his week’s Brussels summit and is not expected to be discussed as a possibility – for now.
The cause of US withdrawal enjoys significant support from across the political spectrum in Germany but is particularly strong with the supporters of certain parties.
The United States continues to devote more resources to the defence of Europe when the Continent’s economy, including Germany’s, are doing well and security challenges abound. This is no longer sustainable for us
Donald Trump in letter to Angela Merkel
Voters for the left-wing Die Linke are particularly in favour of withdrawal, with 67 per cent backing it, as are supporters of the far-right AfD, on 55 per cent. Greens also back withdrawal by 48 per cent.
Less supportive of withdrawal are voters for the centre-right CDU, at 35 per cent, the SPD at 42 per cent, and the FDP at 37 per cent.
The same poll also found significant opposition to militarism in general in the country. Just 15 per cent of all Germans agree with Angela Merkel that the country should increase its military spending to 2 per cent of GDP by 2024, with 36 per cent saying the country’s already spends too much on its military.
Mr Trump warned Angela Merkel and other European leaders in leaked letters last month that there was “growing frustration in the United States that some allies have not stepped up as promised” on defence spending.
“The United States continues to devote more resources to the defence of Europe when the Continent’s economy, including Germany’s, are doing well and security challenges abound. This is no longer sustainable for us,” he said.
US Representative to Nato Kay Bailey Hutchison has however struck a softer tone ahead of the Brussels meeting, stating ahead of the summit that “every one of our allies are already increasing defence spending”.
US troops have been stationed in Germany since the Second World War and the country has the second largest military presence after Japan, which has also been home to US bases since the same conflict.
There are between 30 and 40 US military bases in Germany, a significant reduction from the 200-300 that were located there until the end of the cold war.