President Joe Biden is sending about 2,000 US-based troops to Poland and Germany and shifting 1,000 soldiers from Germany to Romania as demonstrations of commitments to allies on Nato’s eastern flank amid fears of a possible Russian military invasion of Ukraine, the Pentagon said.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the US forces will not enter Ukraine and will move to their new positions in coming days under US command.
“These are not permanent moves,” he said, stressing that the purpose is to reassure allies at a time of heightened tension over Russia’s build-up of military forces along Ukraine’s border.
Mr Kirby said the Russian build-up has continued, even in the past 24 hours.
Of the 2,000 deploying from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, about 1,700 are members of the 82nd Airborne Division infantry brigade, who will go to Poland.
The other 300 are with the 18th Airborne Corps and will deploy to Germany as what the Pentagon called a “joint task force-capable headquarters”.
Poland’s defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak said the US deployment to his country is “a strong signal of solidarity in response to the situation in Ukraine”.
According to the announcements, 1,700 additional 🇺🇸troops will be transferred to 🇵🇱. It is a strong signal of solidarity in response to the situation in 🇺🇦. Last week I talked to @SecDef L.Austin about that issue. We are against any aggression towards Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/Jud8KzLZIT
— Mariusz Błaszczak (@mblaszczak) February 2, 2022
The 1,000 US troops going to Romania are members of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment based at Vilseck, Germany. They will augment approximately 900 US troops already in Romania, Mr Kirby said.
The cavalry deployment’s purpose is to “deter aggression and enhance our defensive capabilities in frontline allied states during this period of elevated risk”, the Pentagon said.
“It’s important that we send a strong signal to Mr Putin and to the world” of the US commitment to Nato, Mr Kirby said.
He said France has decided it will also send troop reinforcements to Romania under Nato command, and noted that a number of other European Nato countries are considering adding forces on Nato’s eastern flank.
Nato has been beefing up its defences around allies in eastern Europe since late last year. Denmark said it was sending a frigate and F-16 warplanes to Lithuania, and Spain was sending four fighter jets to Bulgaria and three ships to the Black Sea to join Nato naval forces.
The Netherlands plans to send two F-35 fighter aircraft to Bulgaria in April and is putting a ship and land-based units on standby for Nato’s Response Force.
Mr Biden has said he will not put American troops in Ukraine to fight any Russian incursion, although the US is supplying Kyiv with weapons to defend itself and seeking to reassure allies in eastern Europe that Washington will fulfil its treaty obligation to defend them if they are attacked.
Ukraine is not a Nato member so the US has no treaty obligation to come to its defence.
The military moves come amid stalled talks with Russia over its military build-up at Ukraine’s borders, and underscore growing fears across Europe that President Vladimir Putin is poised to invade Ukraine.
Smaller Nato countries on the alliance’s eastern flank worry they could be next, although Russia has said it has no intention of initiating conflict and is willing to continue diplomatic efforts.
Mr Biden said recently that he intended to provide additional US forces to Nato allies in eastern Europe as reassurance of an American commitment to treaty allies.
The Pentagon also has put about 8,500 US-based troops on higher alert for possible deployment to Europe as additional reassurance, and officials have indicated the possibility that more units could be placed on higher alert soon.
The US already has between 75,000 and 80,000 troops in Europe as permanently stationed forces and as part of regular rotations in places such as Poland.