Retired general Ben Hodges, the former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, has warned that pulling U.S. soldiers out of Europe is risky because it could determine Russia to test NATO’s defense capacity.
„If they consider we are not cohesive, they may decide to launch an incursion into Romania or the Baltics and threaten to use nuclear weapons to see how we respond,” Hodges told The Times this weekend.
Romania, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are all NATO members, which irked Russia who considers the countries to traditionally be in its sphere of influence.
U.S. president Donald Trump plans to withdraw 9,500 soldiers from the 34,500 troops stationed in Germany, the Wall Street Journal reported last week.
Hodges called Trump’s intention to pull troops out of Europe a „colossal mistake.”
„If there was ever a time we all needed allies, it’s right now, especially when you think about the economic challenges we face coming out of Covid-19,” he told the British broadsheet.
Heinrich Brauss, a retired German general who was a NATO assistant secretary-general until 2018, also called Trump’s move „very harmful” and a „gift for Putin.”
He believes this move „reinforces the suspicion in Europe that we can no longer rely on the unconditional support of America when it comes to European security,” The Times reported.
Romania, which has a strategic partnership with the U.S., relies heavily on American military presence to defend itself against what it sees as Russia’s aggressive posturing in the Black Sea region.
Several hundred U.S. soldiers are posted at the Mihail Kogalniceanu military base near the Black Sea port of Constanta.
The country also hosts a NATO anti-ballistic missile shield at the Deveselu military base, which is under U.S. command, which has further strained relations with Russia.
Romania’s new national defense strategy approved by the country’s top security panel talks about the „aggressive behavior of the Russian Federation” and Moscow’s „militarization of the Black Sea.”
The Kremlin last week accused Bucharest of subservience to NATO and plagiarism after a its defense strategy described Russia as a threat to regional stability.
In response, Romania’s Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu summoned Russia’s Ambassador Valery Kuzmin to the ministry over the comments made Thursday in Moscow.