Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Donald Trump walked by each other in 2017. (Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Donald Trump walked by each other at a NATO summit in Brussels in 2017. (Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The Trump administration is reportedly planning to withdraw 9,500 American troops from Germany by September. The withdrawal would represent a decrease of more than 25% of the roughly 35,000 total American troops based in Germany, where the United States has had a military presence since the end of World War II.

Pew Research Center and Körber-Stiftung have conducted parallel surveys in the U.S. and Germany in recent years to learn more about the way Americans and Germans perceive the relationship between their countries. Based on these and other surveys, here are some fast facts about how people in the two nations see the importance of American military bases in Germany, as well as broader questions about security issues.

Americans and Germans differ over importance of U.S. military bases in Germany to national security
  • Americans are much more likely than Germans to see U.S. bases in Germany as important for their country’s national security, according to surveys conducted in both countries in September 2019. More than eight-in-ten Americans (85%) said the bases are somewhat or very important to U.S. national security, including 56% who said they are very important. Among Germans, around half (52%) said the bases are somewhat or very important to German national security, while nearly as many (45%) said they are not too or not at all important. It’s important to note that the Trump administration is reportedly planning to reduce troop levels but not close bases in Germany.
  • Among Americans, support for the U.S. military presence in Germany is high among both Republicans and Democrats. Nine-in-ten Republicans and GOP-leaning independents said in the 2019 survey that the bases are somewhat or very important to U.S. national security. About eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic leaners (83%) said the same.
  • Older Germans are more likely than younger Germans to see U.S. military bases as somewhat or very important to their country’s national security. Around six-in-ten Germans ages 50 and older said this in 2019, compared with 52% of those ages 30 to 49 and just a third of those 18 to 29. Among German adults under 30, a 62% majority said American bases are not too or not at all important to German national security.

Older Germans more likely to see U.S. military bases in their country as important

  • The planned decrease in U.S. troops in Germany – a key NATO ally – has led some observers to caution that the move could empower Russia. In 2019, Americans and Germans differed markedly over what should happen in the event of a serious military conflict between Russia and a neighboring country that is part of NATO. Six-in-ten Americans said that such a confrontation should lead the U.S. to use military force to defend the NATO member, while six-in-ten Germans said Germany should not use military force to defend the NATO member in such a situation.

Americans and Germans take opposing views on whether their country should defend NATO allies against Russia

  • Most Germans expect that the U.S. would respond militarily in the event of a serious military conflict between Russia and a NATO ally, even as only 34% think their own country should get involved. In the 2019 survey, 63% of Germans said the U.S. would use military force if Russia got into a serious conflict with one of its neighboring countries that is a NATO member.
  • Americans far more likely than Germans to say military force is sometimes necessaryAmericans are far more likely than Germans to say it is sometimes necessary to use military force to maintain order in the world. Around eight-in-ten Americans (78%) agreed with this notion in 2019, while around two-in-ten (21%) disagreed with it. Germans were far more divided: 47% agreed that it is sometimes necessary to use military force to maintain order in the world, while 52% disagreed.
  • While Germans are divided over the need to use military force to maintain world order, they have become more likely in recent years to say that their country should spend more on national defense. Four-in-ten Germans said this in the 2019 survey – not much changed from the 43% who said this in 2018, but up from 32% in 2017. President Donald Trump has called on Germany and other European nations to spend more on defense.
John Gramlich  is a senior writer/editor at Pew Research Center.