The Pentagon has raised the alert level for 8,500 troops who may be sent to Europe as part of a NATO “response force” amid rising fears that Russia could intervene militarily in Ukraine. President Joe Biden met with important European leaders, emphasizing the United States’ commitment to its friends in the region.
On Monday, President Barack Obama placed US forces in Europe on high alert, signaling that he no longer believes Russian President Vladimir Putin would back down from a threat to attack neighboring Ukraine, as Biden has stated.
Beyond Ukraine’s future, the credibility of a NATO alliance that is crucial to US military strategy but Putin sees as a Cold War relic and a danger to Russian security is at stake. The situation will put Biden’s ability to form a cohesive allied front against Putin to the test.
About 8,500 US soldiers are on standby for possible deployment — not to Ukraine, but to NATO territory in Eastern Europe as part of an alliance force aimed to indicate a cohesive resolve to prevent any further Putin aggression, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.
Russia denies that an invasion is in the works. It claims that the charges leveled by the West are really a smokescreen for NATO’s own planned provocations. High-stakes diplomacy has failed to yield any results in recent days, and major characters in the drama are making steps that imply they are afraid of conflict. Biden has attempted to find a balance between steps intended to dissuade Putin and those that may provide Putin an opening to deploy the massive army he has amassed on Ukraine’s border.
Biden had an 80-minute video chat with other European leaders to discuss Russia’s military buildup and possible invasion reactions.
Biden told reporters at the White House, “I had a very, very, very nice meeting — absolute unanimity with all the European leaders.” “We’ll discuss it later.”
The White House stated the leaders addressed ways to prevent additional Russian aggression, “including plans to inflict tremendous penalties and heavy economic costs on Russia for such acts, as well as to enhance security on NATO’s eastern flank,” according to the White House.
The State Department had ordered all American officials in the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to leave the country a day earlier, and it said that non-essential embassy staff might depart at the expense of the US government.
Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, called the US decision “premature” and a sign of “extreme caution.” He said that Russia was instilling fear among Ukrainians and outsiders in order to destabilize the country.
The United Kingdom said that it, too, will be removing some diplomats and their family from its Kyiv embassy. Although an invasion is not a certain conclusion, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that “the intelligence is quite bleak.”
Ordering even a small number of American troops to be ready for possible deployment to Europe is supposed to show the US’ commitment to its NATO partners, particularly those in Eastern Europe who feel threatened by Russia and fear Putin may target them.
“What this is about is providing reassurance to our NATO partners,” Kirby said at a Pentagon press briefing, stressing that no soldiers will be sent to Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO but has been promised of continuous US political assistance and military supply.
The Pentagon’s decision, which was undertaken at Biden’s request and on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s advice, coincides with other NATO member governments’ efforts to strengthen a defensive presence in Eastern European countries. Denmark is sending a frigate and F-16 fighter jets to Lithuania, while Spain is sending four fighter jets to Bulgaria and three ships to the Black Sea to join NATO naval forces, and France is preparing to send soldiers to Romania.
NATO stated in a statement released before Kirby’s announcement that the Netherlands planned to send two F-35 fighter jets to Bulgaria in April and is preparing a ship and land-based troops for NATO’s Response Force.
NATO has yet to decide whether or not to activate the Response Force, which is made up of 40,000 troops from various states. In 2014, after Russia invaded Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and engaged in eastern Ukraine in support of pro-Russian rebels, the Response Force was strengthened by forming a “spearhead force” of around 20,000 troops on extra-high alert.
If NATO decides to activate the Response Force, Kirby says the US will provide a variety of military forces.
“It’s a NATO decision,” Kirby added. “For our part, we wanted to make certain that we were prepared in the event that the call came. And it includes ensuring that the units that will contribute to it are as prepared as they can be on short notice.”
According to him, some troops would be commanded to be ready to deploy in as short as five days. He said an undefined number of the 8,500 troops may be dispatched to Europe for tasks other than aiding the NATO Response Force. He indicated they may be used “if other scenarios occur,” but he didn’t elaborate.
NATO published a statement prior to the US announcement, summarizing steps already detailed by member countries. It seems that reiterating them under the NATO banner was intended to demonstrate determination. In the propaganda battle that has followed the Ukraine crisis, the West is raising its rhetoric.
Russia has gathered an estimated 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s border, demanding that NATO guarantee that Ukraine would never be admitted and that other moves, such as stationing alliance forces in former Soviet bloc nations, be stopped.
NATO said on Monday that it is increasing its Baltic Sea deterrent.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that the alliance will “take all necessary steps to safeguard and defend all allies.” “Any degradation of our security environment will always be met with a response, including the strengthening of our collective defense.”
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, claimed the increasing tensions were caused by NATO and the United States, not Russia.
“All of this is occurring because of what Russia is doing, not because of what we are doing.” “What NATO and the US are doing is causing this,” Peskov told reporters.
The NATO decision came as European Union foreign ministers attempted to put on a new show of solidarity in support of Ukraine, burying worries about disagreements over how best to deal with any Russian attack.
The EU has sped its penalty preparations, according to the ministers, who also warned that “any further military action by Russia against Ukraine will have significant consequences and terrible costs.”