U.S. Vice President Pence calls Germany’s stance on NATO ‘unacceptable’

US Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday strongly criticized Germany at NATO's 70th anniversary gathering, saying the ally's level of defense spending and work with Russia on a gas pipeline were "simply unacceptable."

U.S. Vice President Pence calls Germany's stance on NATO 'unacceptable'
U.S. vice president Mike Pence speaking at a conference Wednesday about 70 years of NATO. Photo: DPA

“Germany must do more. And we cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on Russia,” Pence told a forum as part of two days of alliance events in Washington.

“It is simply unacceptable for Europe's largest economy to continue to
ignore the threat of Russian aggression and neglect its own self-defense and our common defense,” Pence said.

SEE ALSO: U.S. envoy Pompeo targets Germany over NATO spending

President Donald Trump has repeatedly voiced annoyance that Germany is not on track to meet a goal set by NATO in 2014 of each member spending two percent of GDP on defense.

Pence highlighted a report to parliament on Germany's armed forces, saying it showed “glaring deficiencies” in military readiness.

SEE ALSO: More women soldiers and less equipment: A look at Germany's army in numbers

Germany, despite political concerns about Russia, has forged ahead with the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that would double the capacity of the existing link with Russia.

“If Germany persists in building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, as President
Trump said, it could turn Germany's economy into literally a captive of
Russia,” Pence said.

Germany, which opposes nuclear power, is eager for the added energy, but
the pipeline is also opposed by the Baltic States and Poland which are wary
over Russia due to past history.

SEE ALSO: Germany reaches compromise deal over Nord Stream 2 pipeline

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US Congress moves to block Trump’s withdrawal of troops from Germany

US lawmakers have announced a bill that would delay the withdrawal of US troops until after President Donald Trump has left office, thus opening a door to a reversal of a decision announced by Trump in the summer.

US Congress moves to block Trump's withdrawal of troops from Germany
A US soldier in Grafenwöhr, Bavaria. Photo: DPA

The National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), which still needs to pass through the US Congress, specifies that a troop withdrawal can only happen 120 days after the defence secretary presents a report to Congress analysing whether the troop withdrawal is in the US national interest.

In June, President Trump announced plans to withdraw close to 12,000 of the 36,000 US troops based in Germany, citing Berlin’s failure to meet its NATO spending commitments.

As Trump is to leave office on January 20th, to be replaced by Democrat Joe Biden, the bill casts doubt on the entire troop withdrawal.

READ ALSO: Trump 'to withdraw thousands of US soldiers from Germany by end of 2020'

Trump still has the chance to veto the bill, something he indicated that he would do on Wednesday, although the objections he cited in a Twitter post did not reference the block on his troop withdrawal plans. A two thirds majority in Congress could then overturn his veto.

Trump's plans met with criticism from the US military top brass, as well as from his own Republican party. In Congress, both Democrats and Trump's Republicans announced their opposition to the plans.

The bill now states that Congress continues to value Germany as a strong NATO partner. The presence of the “approximately 34,500 members of the U.S. armed forces stationed in Germany” serves as an important deterrent against Russia's expansionist ambitions in Europe, it states. 

The bill further states that the U.S. troops in Germany are of central importance for supporting U.S. missions in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan.

A few weeks after Trump's announcement, the now dismissed US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper made it clear that the plans were to be implemented “as quickly as possible”. As yet though, there has been no troop reduction.

A good half of the 12,000 soldiers were to be recalled to the USA, while 5,600 were to be transferred to other NATO countries.

Three locations in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate would be particularly hard hit by the plans: Stuttgart, Vilseck and Spangdahlem.