Washington, Berlin Agree to Trim Troops, Bases; Analysts, Officials Say 2 Nations Moving beyond Iraq War Feud

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Byline: David R. Sands, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Germany and the United States yesterday pledged to coordinate a reduction of American troops and military bases in Germany in the coming years, a further sign that both sides are moving past the divisions over the Iraq war.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who joined France and Russia in a alliance against the U.S.-led war, makes his first visit to the White House in more than two years later this month.

Officials and analysts say the two sides have been able to find common ground on issues such as terrorism, Afghanistan and even the postwar reconstruction of Iraq.

"The leitmotif of German foreign policy has always been that Berlin did not want to have to choose between France and Europe on the one hand and the United States on the other," said Cathleen Fisher, associate director of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.

"Germany still is working closely with Paris on European integration issues, but the government may be looking for a little more balance," she said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and German Defense Minister Peter Struck met yesterday to discuss the base realignment, with the Pentagon looking to move Cold War facilities and tens of thousands of troops out of Western Europe and focus instead on new, more streamlined outposts in central and Eastern Europe.

Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters in Munich there was "no punishment involved" in the reduction of U.S. forces in Germany, saying the repositioning of American forces was based on new post-Cold War threats and needs.

Mr. Rumsfeld, who attends a major international defense conference this weekend, did not back away yesterday from prewar comments that Germany and France, in opposing the Iraq war, represented "Old Europe," in contrast to the more pro-American stance of Britain, Spain and the "New Europe" states in the east.

The comment infuriated many European opponents of the war, and last year's Munich conference, held just a month before the Iraq fighting began, was highly contentious. …