Pentagon puts 8,500 troops on 'high alert' amid tensions in Ukraine

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on “high alert” for possible deployment to Eastern Eu...


WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on “high alert” for possible deployment to Eastern Europe as NATO and the United States prepare for a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Pentagon announced on Monday.

Most of the 8,500 soldiers would take part in a NATO response force that could soon be activated, said John F. Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman. The remaining personnel would be part of a specific U.S. response to the worsening crisis, Defense Department officials said, most likely to provide reassurance to U.S. allies in Eastern Europe who fear plans to Russia for Ukraine does not extend to the Baltic States and other NATO countries. said eastern flank.

“It’s very clear that the Russians have no intention of defusing at this time,” Kirby said at a news conference on Monday. “What it’s all about, though, is reassuring our NATO allies.”

Mr Kirby’s announcement comes after The New York Times reported Sunday that President Biden was considering deploying several thousand American troops, as well as warships and aircraft, to NATO allies in the Baltics and Eastern Europe.

The movements signal a major pivot for the Biden administration, which until recently took a moderate stance on Ukraine for fear of provoking Russia. But as Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has stepped up his threatening actions toward Ukraine and talks between U.S. and Russian officials have failed to deter him, the Biden administration is moving away from its previous strategy.

At the same time, the administration continues to insist that the United States has no intention of going to war with Russia over this issue. Since Ukraine is not in NATO, the alliance is not bound by its treaty to come to the defense of Ukraine. The muster of more than 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border and NATO’s response nonetheless raised the specter of a war that could escalate and spread.

“I don’t think anyone wants to see another war on the European continent,” Mr Kirby said.

In a meeting on Saturday at Camp David, Maryland’s presidential retreat, senior Pentagon officials presented Biden with several options that would lead to moving US military assets much closer to Russia’s doorstep, officials said. administrative officials.

The bulk of the troops placed on higher alert are active duty ground troops, including combat brigades and medical, air, transport, intelligence and surveillance forces with their equipment, Mr. Kirby to reporters. He declined to identify specific units, saying families were notified on Monday.

“High alert” means troops are now on what Defense Ministry officials have said is a tighter leash, in case deployment orders arrive quickly. In some cases, officials said, units that were ready to deploy within 10 days must now be ready to deploy within five days.

While the United States could send some of these troops directly to Eastern European members of NATO, such as Poland or Romania, which request certain types of support forces, Mr. Kirby said that the most troops placed on alert, if activated, would go to a special NATO unit.

This unit, the NATO Response Force, or NRF, is a 40,000-member multinational force made up of ground, air, sea and special operations forces that is intended to respond quickly to emergencies.

“This is important because it signals that the United States is not just doing this unilaterally, but preparing to contribute its forces to the NRF, all within the framework of NATO,” said Frederick B. Hodges, l former Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army in Europe. the Center for European Policy Analysis.

In 2014, after Russia seized Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine, the alliance designated about half of this unit, or about 20,000 troops, to be in “very high level of readiness” for the most urgent missions.

The NATO Response Force reports to General Tod D. Wolters, a four-star US Air Force officer who is the alliance’s top military commander.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Pentagon puts 8,500 troops on 'high alert' amid tensions in Ukraine
Pentagon puts 8,500 troops on 'high alert' amid tensions in Ukraine
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