The United States military on Wednesday unveiled plans to withdraw about 12,000 troops from Germany, but said it will keep nearly half of them in Europe to address tension with Russia.

Germany hosts more US troops than any other country in Europe. Trump last month ordered the US military to remove 9,500 troops from Germany, cutting the number from 34,500 to 25,000.

Trump cited Germany’s failure to meet NATO’s defence spending target as a reason. He also accused Germany of taking advantage of the US on trade. The White House has insisted the move would “enhance Russian deterrence, strengthen NATO, reassure Allies”.

“We’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills; it’s very simple”, Trump said on Wednesday. “We’re moving forces out of central Europe, Germany, where they’ve been since the Cold War, defence secretary Mark Esper said, adding that it will shift US forces east, closer to Russia, “where our newest allies are”.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said in a Wednesday statement that the plan “underlines the continued commitment by the United States to NATO and to European security”. German officials have condemned the troop cuts.

5,400 troops of the 12,000 leaving Germany are expected to remain in other locations in Europe, including at NATO bases in Belgium and Italy. Some 6,400 forces will be based in the US but will rotate into Europe for temporary deployments without their families.

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