Auf Wiedersehen, Yanks!

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

🎵Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?🎶

– Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi”

Wise words, those! Surely the Germans are just as aware of such folk-wisdom; still, it could also have been useful had Joni put the song out back in 1970 in a German translation as well (as the Beatles had done previously, y’know: Komm, gib mir deine HAAAAND!)

Just in my last blogpost I mentioned how the quarrel between the US and Germany over the latter’s allegedly insufficient defense-spending has recently heated up again. US ambassador Richard Grenell brought this up in order to threaten that the US was considering moving those of its troops still stationed there (numbering around 35,700) to new bases in Poland.

That story now resumes with today’s early piece from Der Spiegel: “Federal government [Germany’s, to be clear] spends hundreds of millions for US troops.” And it does, if you’re willing to take a multi-year view: €243 million, total, from 2013 until the present. In addition, €480 million has been spent over 2012 – 2019 (so a slightly different time-frame; makes things confusing) on NATO-related construction, almost all of that devoted to American projects.

This information was released by the Finance Ministry in response to a request from a member of the Bundestag, Brigitte Freihold, from Die Linke Party, the party that is closest to being the successor to the former East Germany’s Communist Party. Naturally, people of that persuasion have the least interest in still having US troops based on German soil. Still, the Spiegel writer (or maybe s/he is from the DPA) also gets into the Die Linke spirit: “Real estate, buildings, supplies” reads that super-headline, then the lede: “Tens of thousand of US soldiers are stationed in Germany – and they burden the Federation with considerable costs.” And then in the first paragraph: “Nowhere in Europe are so many US soldiers housed as in Germany [true]. And that doesn’t come cheap, nor for the German taxpayer.”

Not true. Well, maybe true in the accountant’s-green-eyeshade sense of “true.” But that discounts all the other fringe-benefits gained by allowing a US troop presence. After all, for some strange reason the Poles are quite eager to welcome American soldiers permanently on their soil, going so far as to offer to name one of the new bases “Camp Trump.”

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