WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding his amendment to the defense bill to prevent the withdrawal of U.S. troops deployed to Germany. He was joined by his colleagues in introducing the legislation to the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last month.
A transcript of his remarks can be found below and video can be found here.
Mr. President, I rise to address the administration's plan to withdraw some 10,000 troops from Germany, and I rise to advance a bipartisan amendment to slow that process down or potentially even to stop it. The administration explains that Germany needs to get 2% of its spending on military matters, a direction I support. Germany is already at 1.5%, and is on track to getting to 2%. By all appearance, the withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Germany is a very bad idea. First of all, it's a slap in the face at a key ally, a friend, and a great country. This country is an economic powerhouse. It is a dynamic and productive people that have created that economic vitality. It has been driven to global leadership, not by virtue of having cheap labor or polluting the air with pollutants or CO2. China buys more from Germany than Germany buys from China. Why? Not because Germany threatens China, but Germany is making products that China wants. It's a democracy known for its strong, steady and firm leader.
Germany pays an equal share to the United States into NATO, and NATO of course has preserved peace in Europe for over 70 years. Now is also a time to draw our friends closer, to link arms with our allies, in part because of China’s ambition to become the dominant player on the earth, to displace the West, to displace the United States, and to supplant democracy with authoritarian despotism. China brutally represses its minorities—the Uyghurs we read even today, are being forced into labor. China invades sovereign lands and nations of its neighbors. It is a propagandizing our children here through Confucius Institutes. It steals technology in our country and in other countries in the West. It attacks on cyber basis relentlessly day in and day out. Its military procurement is equal to that or nearly so of the United States even though we spend far more money on the military as reported, our procurement budgets procure about the same amount of military hardware.
And, of course, the tip of its spear is its economic predation. China has attacked one industry after another and through subsidy and predatory pricing techniques has driven Western businesses out of business. In my view, to divert China from that dangerous path, we need allies, allies like Germany. Now there's a second reason I'm opposed to this idea of withdrawing troops from Germany, and that is because it is a heck of a time to give a gift to Russia. We just learned about Russia supporting the Taliban, even reports that they may have been paying bounties for killing Americans. Russia has stepped in to support some of the world's worst actors like Assad and Maduro. It’s invaded Georgia and Ukraine and it violates nearly every arms agreement it enters into. It is a wounded and declining nation. It has an uncompetitive economy.
Senator McCain used to joke that Russia is a gas station pretending to be a country. Its declining population, of course, contributes to its decline. Nations in decline may lash out and that is what we have seen time and again. This is a time not to give a gift to Russia, but to show solidarity with our dear friends like the people of Germany. And one final reason: Germans welcome American troops in their country and our presence there is of enormous aid to our own military. In Landstuhl, we have a hospital that cares for some 250,000 military personnel and their families across Europe. We also care for those that come in injured from Afghanistan and Iraq. It is a staging area for training exercises that are done with NATO. It is a central hub for our troops in the E.U., and the Middle East, and Africa. In Stuttgart, the European Command is there, the African Command, the Special Ops Command. Ramstein’s airbase is the largest in Europe for our nation. It also hosts extensive infrastructure of schools and housing, hospitals, airport, maintenance. Moving from those facilities would be expensive and wasteful to abandon them.
Finally, we are so welcomed by the German people that the leaders of their various states, their state premiers, wrote a letter to the Senate and it said this, and I quote: “Do not sever the bond of friendship” between the United States and Germany. I also got a personal letter from leaders in Germany saying “Do not do this—this sends exactly the wrong message at the wrong time.” To slap an ally, a great friend, a great country like Germany and at the same time give a gift to a malevolent adversary like Russia is ill-conceived and ill-considered.
I implore the Senate to consider an amendment to slow this process down and to study it. There's a real question as to whether there will be a chance for a vote of such a nature. In my view, the Senate needs to speak on something of such magnitude. This is a matter of extraordinary significance to American foreign policy. How could we possibly allow the Administration to make a decision like this without the input of the United States Senate? We must vote on this. I'll be satisfied if we come together as a body and vote no and people say: “No, let the President take out the 10,000 troops.” But I won't be satisfied if we don't get a chance to even vote on this. We have a National Defense Authorization Amendment coming forward. This is a time for this amendment to be seen on the Senate floor or in the managers' package, and barring that I don't see how I can support the managers' package. I don't know how I can support, as a Senator, proceeding without taking up this vital provision of our support for our friend, Germany, of our support for our interests in NATO, the interest of our military, as well as our desire not to give Russia a gift particularly at a time when America has been silent as Russia has been supporting the Taliban and potentially even paying hostages to kill Americans.