“I briefed the minister on our intention to permanently stage an approximately 500 additional U.S. personnel in the Wiesbaden area,” Austin said Tuesday at a press briefing in Berlin.
“These forces will strengthen deterrence and defense in Europe,” he added. “They will augment our existing abilities to prevent conflict, and, if necessary, fight and win.”
The move by the administration of President Joe Biden is reversing the policy of former President Donald Trump who sought, during his term as commander in chief, to have 12,000 troops removed from the country, saying Germany has been “delinquent” in its payments to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
“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 when he announced the plans in June 2019, adding that Germany treats the United States “very badly on trade.”
The United States currently has more than 62,000 troops in Europe—of those, 34,000 troops are stationed in Germany.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Germany’s Federal Minister of Defence, applauded Austin’s announcement as “wonderful news” and a “very strong sign of solidarity.”
“Our cooperation is all the more important, important in times where the security and defense architecture has come under pressure in many parts of the world,” she said during Tuesday’s briefing.
Austin was asked by reporters during Tuesday’s briefing whether the decision to add hundreds of troops means the Biden administration will not carry out Trump’s policy to drawback thousands of troops in Germany, to which Austin replied the Pentagon has “ceased planning” troop reductions.
Austin was also asked if the deployment of additional U.S. troops should be interpreted as a message to Russia amid renewed tensions, but the defense secretary avoided the question, saying “it’s a message to NATO, and that message is that we support NATO to the fullest extent.”
“We value the relationship with our partner here in Germany,” Austin said. “And so we will continue to strengthen our partnership and our alliance.”
The decision by the Biden administration to expand military presence in the western European country comes amid recent concerns over an increase in Russian troops on Ukraine’s eastern border over the past weeks.
Also during Tuesday’s briefing, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to withdraw troops that the alliance says Moscow is massing on Ukraine’s borders, ahead of an emergency meeting of allied foreign and defense ministers.
Reuters contributed to this report.