President Biden has approved the deployment of about 3,000 additional U.S. troops to Eastern Europe, administration officials said Wednesday.
Troops, including 1,000 already in Germany, will head to Poland and Romania, Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby said. Their goal will be to reassure NATO allies that while the United States has no intention of sending troops to Ukraine, where Russian President Vladimir V. Putin is threatening an invasion, Mr. Biden would protect US NATO allies from any Russian aggression.
“It is important that we send a strong signal to Mr. Putin and to the world that NATO matters,” Mr. Kirby told reporters at a press conference. “We are making it clear that we are going to be ready to defend our NATO allies if that happens.”
For now, Russia is threatening Ukraine, not Romania or Poland. But Mr Putin has made clear his distaste for NATO and the reshuffling of the post-Cold War map of Europe, which has placed former Soviet republics and satellite countries in the West’s main military alliance. his door.
The president’s decision comes days after Pentagon leaders said Mr Putin had deployed the necessary troops and military equipment to lead an invasion of Ukraine. Senior Defense Department officials also said the tense standoff was leading the United States, its NATO allies and Russia into uncharted territory.
The number of Russian troops gathered on Ukraine’s borders has reached well over 100,000, officials said, publicly confirming for the first time what intelligence analysts have been describing for weeks.
Nearly 2,000 troops — most from the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina — will head to Poland, Kirby said. Although many of these troops are paratroopers, Mr Kirby said he did not expect the airborne troops to deploy to Poland in a “tactical operation”, which further infuriate Russia.
Troops transferred to Romania will complement French troops deployed there, Kirby said.
The Biden administration has not ruled out sending additional troops to Europe, and still has 8,500 American troops on “high alert” for possible deployment in a NATO quick reaction force.
Asked why Mr Biden decided to move troops unilaterally, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the decision had been under discussion “for some time” with NATO partners and that no specific event has prompted Mr. Biden in recent days to deploy. The troops.
“There is no doubt that Russia and President Putin have continued to take escalation, not de-escalation,” Ms Psaki said. “So it’s not that this is a moment, it’s that we’re looking at events over time.”
Mr Kirby also said there would be no change in the status of the small number of US troops in Ukraine. More than 150 US military advisers are in Ukraine, trainers who worked for years near Lviv in the west of the country, far from the front lines. The current group includes special operations forces, mostly Army Green Berets, as well as National Guard trainers from Florida’s 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
“It’s a strong and unambiguous signal,” said Jim Townsend, a former senior Pentagon official for Europe and NATO policy. “It is also significant that they are heading towards the Black Sea. Finally, the Black Sea region is recognized as a major theater. It’s not just the Baltic countries.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.