The administration of US President Donald Trump is drawing plans to require allies with American troops stationed in their countries to pay for the deployment in an effort to bring down military costs.
Under White House direction, the Trump administration plans to ask Germany, Japan and eventually any other country hosting US troops pay the full price of American soldiers deployed on their soil, plus 50 percent or more for the privilege of hosting them.
Details of the drive was first reported by Bloomberg News, which cited a dozen administration officials and people briefed on the matter.
In some cases, nations hosting US forces could be asked to pay five to six times as much as they do now under the “Cost Plus 50” formula, the news outlet reported.
Current and former administration officials briefed on the idea, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, describe it as far more advanced than is publicly known.
The officials said that as well as seeking more money, the administration wants to use it as a way to exert leverage on countries to do what the US demands overseas.
US officials said the idea is one of many under consideration as Washington presses allies to pay more, and it may be toned down.
Trump has promoted the idea that countries should pay the full cost, plus a premium, since taking office. “Wealthy, wealthy countries that we’re protecting are all under notice,” Trump said in a speech at the Pentagon on Jan. 17. “We cannot be the fools for others.”
The idea has sent shock waves through the Defense Department and State Department, where officials fear it will be an especially humiliating to US allies in Asia and Europe already questioning the depth of Trump’s commitment to them.
The United States and South Korea signed a formal agreement on Friday under which Seoul will pay 8.2 percent more for the deployment of US troops in the Asian country.
After rounds of failed negotiations, chief delegates from the two countries last month agreed on Seoul paying $924 million in 2019 for the US military presence, up from about $830 million last year.
Trump had earlier pressured Seoul to increase its financial contribution. The increase still falls short of “Cost Plus 50” plan.
Critics argue that the demand also misreads the benefits that overseas troop deployments bring to the US.
“Even raising this question feeds a misinformed narrative that these facilities are there for the benefits of those countries,” said Douglas Lute, a former US ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “The truth is they’re there and we maintain them because they’re in our interest.”
In Germany, for instance, the US military relies on several crucial installations: the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and the Ramstein Air Base. Landstuhl is a world-class medical facility that has provided emergency care to US soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.