SALT LAKE CITY — Withdrawing U.S. troops from Germany would be a “very bad idea” and a “slap in the face” to a key ally, Sen. Mitt Romney said Monday.

The Utah Republican also opposes President Donald Trump’s plan to remove 10,000 soldiers from the European nation because it is a “heck of a time to give a free gift to Russia.”

Romney said he received a personal letter from leaders in Germany saying, “Do not do this — this sends exactly the wrong message at the wrong time.”

Romney is leading a bipartisan effort to slow down or stop the troop withdrawal from Germany. Earlier this month, he proposed an amendment to the defense bill that would limit the use of funds to reduce the number of active-duty service members in the country. 

Mitt Romney leading effort to block Trump withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany

The issue has “extraordinary significance” to American foreign policy, he said in a speech on the Senate floor.

“How could we possibly allow the administration to make a decision like this without the input of the United States Senate,” Romney said. “We must vote on this.”

Trump last month announced that he planned to reduce the U.S. troops in Germany from 34,500 to 25,000. He has explained the move as a response to Germany not meeting NATO’s goal of spending at least 2% of gross domestic product on defense.

Romney argued Germany is already spending 1.5% on defense and is on track to getting to 2%.

“By all appearance, the withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Germany is a very bad idea. First of all, it’s a slap in the face at a key ally, a friend and great country,” he said, describing it as an “economic powerhouse.”

Now is the time to “link arms” with allies, in part because of China’s ambition to become the dominant player on the Earth, to displace the West, to displace the United States, and to supplant democracy with authoritarian despotism, Romney said.

China brutally represses minorities, invades foreign countries, steals technology and attacks industry after industry through predatory pricing techniques that drive Western companies out of business, he said.

“In my view, to divert China from that dangerous path, we need allies, allies like Germany,” Romney said.

Romney also said the U.S. has been silent as Russia supports the Taliban and amid reports even of it have been paying bounties for killing Americans.

“Russia has stepped in to support some of the world’s worst actors like (Syrian President Bashar) Assad and (Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro. It’s invaded Georgia and Ukraine and it violates nearly every arms agreement it enters into,” he said.

Russia, he said, is a nation in decline, and nations in decline “may lash out, and that is what we have seen time and again.”

“To slap an ally, a great friend, a great country like Germany and at the same time give a gift to a malevolent adversary like Russia is ill-conceived and ill-considered,” he said.

Now is the time to show solidarity with the German people, Romney said.

Germans welcome American troops and the U.S. has a hospital there that cares for 250,000 soldiers and their families across Europe, he said. It also cares for those injured in Afghanistan and Iraq.