The Pentagon said Monday that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 troops on “heightened alert” to prepare for a possible deployment to Eastern Europe as President Biden mulls military options to escalate tensions with Russia.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby stressed that the troops have only been put on alert and that “no decisions have been made to deploy forces from the United States at this time. The move comes a day after The New York Times reported that Biden was considering sending thousands of troops to Eastern Europe and the Baltics.
Kirby said the alert is about “reassuring the eastern flank of NATO,” referring to Poland, Romania, and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. He said the troops on alert include “additional brigade combat teams, logistics personnel, medical support, aviation support, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.” Kirby also reiterated Biden’s stance that no US troops would be sent to Ukraine to fight Russia.
Also on Monday, NATO announced that it was putting its forces on standby and is sending more warships and warplanes to Eastern Europe. Russia responded to the news by reiterating that it has no plans to invade Ukraine and chalked up the Western military moves to “hysteria.”
The US is expected to give Russia a written response to its security proposals sometime this week. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main concerns are over NATO’s eastward expansion, so sending more US troops near Russia’s borders would only further inflame tensions.