Unprecedented: German General Appointed Chief of Staff of US Army Europe

According to Army Times, German Brigadier General Markus Laubenthal has been appointed to the position of chief of staff of the US Army’s European Command (USAREUR). He will be serving under Lieutenant General Donald Campbell and coordinating US command staff. The appointment is an unprecedented move, as the position has previously only been held by Americans.

Lieutenant General Donald Campbell, who has led the Army’s forces stationed in Europe since 2012 and who commands over 37,000 troops, said, “This is a bold and major step forward in USAREUR’s commitment to operating in a multinational environment with our German allies.” He also pointed out the fact that “US and German senior military leaders have been serving together in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan for years.” However, this has usually been done under NATO’s banner, rather than through the injection of an officer from another nation directly into a US military command.

Laubenthal’s previous assignments included a stint in Amberg as commander of Germany’s 12th Panzer Brigade, chief of staff of International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan’s Regional Command North, and assistant chief of staff of operations for NATO forces in Kosovo. His appointment ceremony is set to take place later this month, and he will be stationed at USAREUR headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Army officials denied allegations that the appointment was a political move aimed at smoothing over US-German relations in light of revelations that the NSA spied on German citizens and Chancellor Angela Merkel. The relationship between both countries was also strained recently when CIA double agents were found among the ranks of German intelligence officers. Army representatives indicated that the appointment had been in the works for months as a part of a wider initiative to bring multinational cooperation into the US military. However, according to Stars and Stripes, a German military spokesperson referred to the appointment as “a clear sign for a good German-American cooperation.”

Polls in recent years have shown that many Americans support withdrawing US troops from Europe, such as a 2012 Rasmussen poll in which 51% of respondents favored allowing European nations like Germany to take over responsibility for their own national security. The issue also came up during the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, when former Congressman Ron Paul advocated withdrawing US troops from decades-old positions in South Korea, Japan, and Germany. American troops have been stationed in Germany and Japan since World War II and in South Korea since the Korean War.