Morning Brief

Trump to Pull U.S. Troops From Germany

As Pentagon speaks of grand strategy, Trump says troop withdrawal is about getting even with Berlin.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows  listens prior to Trump's Marine One departure from the South Lawn of the White House July 29, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows listens prior to Trump's Marine One departure from the South Lawn of the White House July 29, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The United States lays out plans for the removal of 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany, U.S. coronavirus deaths reach worst levels since May, and Iran hails its latest missile launch.

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“We Don’t Want to Be the Suckers Anymore”

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced plans to withdraw roughly 12,000 U.S. troops stationed in Germany. Of the approximately 12,000 troops, 6,400 will be returning to the United States, while the remainder will be sent to other countries in Europe.

Esper presented the move as good strategic sense. “These changes will achieve the core principles of enhancing U.S. and NATO deterrence of Russia, strengthening NATO, reassuring allies and improving U.S. strategic flexibility,” he said.

Mixed messages. But over at the White House, only minutes after Esper’s remarks, U.S. President Donald Trump was more blunt: “We don’t want to be the suckers anymore,” Trump said on Wednesday. “We’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills; it’s very simple.”

“It’s always a good thing to revisit how many troops the U.S. has deployed abroad, especially in Europe,” Rachel Rizzo, an expert on European security issues with the Truman Center for National Policy told Foreign Policy. “But this particular move is just clearly punishment for Germany. It seems like it was done without any real analysis or strategy behind it.”

Not just troops. U.S. military command centers are also set to relocate as part of the troop reduction. U.S. European Command is moving to Belgium and U.S. officials suggested that U.S. Africa Command, currently based in Stuttgart, would also be moved elsewhere.

A slow march. In his comments, Esper pointed out that the relocation of troops would likely take years and cost in the “single-digit” billions of dollars. If November’s presidential election brings the Democrats to power, it may not happen at all: Joe Biden’s campaign has promised to review the decision if he wins.


What We’re Following Today

Coronavirus deaths rise. Daily coronavirus deaths in the United States passed 1,400 for the first time since May on Wednesday as the states of Florida, North Carolina, and California set records for deaths in a single day. The United States has now recorded 150,000 deaths in total. Wednesday’s U.S. death toll was only topped by Brazil, where over 1,500 new deaths were reported.

U.S. sanctions Assad’s son. The United States imposed new sanctions on Syria on Tuesday, targeting ten entities and four individuals—including Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s son, Hafez. They are the second round of U.S. sanctions imposed under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, which targets those dealing with Syria, regardless of nationality. The White House has said more sanctions will follow “as part of a sustained campaign of economic and political pressure to deny the Assad regime the resources it uses to wage war against the Syrian people.”

Iran touts ballistic missiles. Iran has hailed what it says was its first ever launch of ballistic missiles from underground, calling it an “important achievement that could pose serious challenges to enemy intelligence organizations.” The launches took place on Wednesday on the final day of military exercises that included a missile strike on a mock aircraft carrier. The U.S. military called the launches “irresponsible” and placed two neighboring bases on high alert during the exercises.

NASA Mars launch. The United States is set to join the United Arab Emirates and China as the third mission to Mars launched this summer as it prepares to launch its rover, Perseverance, today from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Following a months-long journey to the planet, the rover will search for signs of past microscopic life on an ancient lakebed and gather rock samples to be returned to earth for further study. If successful, it would be ninth U.S. spacecraft to operate on the Martian surface.


Keep an Eye On 

India opens up higher education sector. India has approved a new plan to allow foreign universities to open campuses in the country as it seeks to halt the flow of students to overseas institutions. The move is part of a policy that aims to increase public spending on education from 4 percent to 6 percent of gross domestic product. Any foreign university opening in India would also have to contend with a cap on the amount of fees educational institutions are allowed to charge in the country.

Lead levels dangerously high in world’s children. One in three children in the world have been found to have dangerously high levels of lead in their blood, according to a report published by UNICEF. The report found that up to 800 million children have blood levels of 5 micrograms per deciliter—a level at which the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call for intervention. Improper disposal of car batteries is one leading source of lead contamination, as they currently make up 85 percent of lead used globally.


Odds and Ends

Archeologists appear to have solved the centuries-old mystery of where the ancient stones of Stonehenge came from. After analyzing a recently discovered sample taken from one of the original giant sarsen stones, researchers were able to pinpoint the specific spot where the stones were sourced: The West Woods, in Wiltshire.

The area is 15 miles from the site of Stonehenge, and it’s still not known how the stones were transported there 4,500 years ago. “We weren’t really setting out to find the source of Stonehenge,” said David Nash, a professor at the University of Brighton who led the research. “We picked 20 areas and our goal was to try to eliminate them, to find ones that didn’t match. We didn’t think we’d get a direct match. It was a real ‘Oh my goodness’ moment.”


That’s it for today.

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Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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