In a slap at a longtime ally frequently reviled by President Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Wednesday that the USA plans to withdraw roughly a third of the 36,000 American forces stationed in Germany.
Some could also go to Poland and the Baltic states if Warsaw follows through on an agreement already sketched out by the two sides, he revealed.
Almost 4,500 service members will return to the US while the remaining 5,600 members will be dispersed throughout Europe in the U.K., Italy, Belgium, Poland and the Black Sea Region.
Criticizing Berlin's "delinquency" on military spending, Trump last month ordered the USA military to withdraw 9,500 troops from Germany.
Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Germany is the latest flashpoint in his strained relationship with Merkel.
In a separate row, European Union officials were "furious" with the Trump administration, Bloomberg reported, after the president moved to shut Germany and the rest of the European Union out of White House talks between leaders of Serbia and Kosovo. Also, Germany is very delinquent in their 2% fee to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
Most troops are now stationed at the Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany, the largest American military base outside the US.
But military leaders rejected claims that the decision is linked to Mr. Trump's disputes with Germany and said that it is part of a long-planned effort to reposition American forces across Europe to better deter Russian Federation.
"The United States has been taken advantage of on trade and on military and on everything else for many years, and I'm here and I've been straightening it out".
"And, again, the president's directive in June accelerated that, and I think we are excited about where we're going and what it will mean in terms of our ability to enhance deterrence, strengthen the alliance in the process", he said.
Norbert Roettgen, chairman of the German parliament's foreign affairs committee and an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the troop withdrawal from Germany "will weaken the (NATO) alliance".
"I value very favorably the news that the United States mentioned possibility of moving some troops to the Baltic countries", Nauseda said.
"Moving forces south or west in the Continent is a retreat that reduces US ability to surge into the theater if Russia makes a military move", the editorial board argued, listing Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine in 2014 after the Obama administration withdrew combat brigades in Germany as an example.
Another 2,500 airmen based in Mildenhall, UK, who were scheduled to re-base to Germany, will remain in the UK.
Also announced that the Pentagon will transfer its command center, previously located in Stuttgart, Germany, to Belgium.
U.S. Air Force General Tod Wolters, the top commander of SHAPE and U.S. EUCOM, said moving 2,000 U.S. EUCOM personnel to Mons would increase efficiency.
"We'll now be able to rotate units in perpetuity in multiple locations, to include potentially Poland, to include the northeast in the vicinity of the Baltics, to include the southeast in the vicinity of the Black Sea". "Such a thing should not happen again in the German-American friendship that is actually very good and vital".
But US President Donald Trump gave his own reason, telling reporters on Wednesday, "We're reducing the force because Germans are not paying their bills".