US officials said Tuesday that only NATO will decide if troops will be deployed to Eastern Europe in response to the tensions surrounding Ukraine.
On Monday, the Pentagon said about 8,500 US troops have been put on “heightened alert” to prepare for a potential deployment to Eastern Europe. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday the “bulk” of the soldiers are meant to deploy with NATO’s Response Force if it is activated.
Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer told CNN that NATO will make all of the decisions when it comes to the potential deployment. “The alliance will make decisions about force posture adjustments, but they are ready to go at a moment’s notice when the alliance decides,” he said.
Finer said if NATO makes the decision to activate the force, troops would only be deployed to “allied territory” and wouldn’t be going to Ukraine. The troops would likely be sent to the area NATO describes as its “eastern flank,” which includes Poland, Romania, and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
In order to activate the 40,000 troops that make up the NATO Response Force, the alliance would need the consent of all 30 of its members, which could be hard to get. Some NATO allies seem more set on reducing tensions with Russia, most notably Germany, which is sticking to its new government policy of not sending weapons to potential conflict zones and isn’t arming Ukraine.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, and both leaders called for diplomacy to de-escalate the situation. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main gripe with the US and NATO is the presence of the military alliance near Russia’s borders, so sending more troops to the area would only serve to increase tensions.