President Joe Biden will move 3,000 troops to Eastern Europe to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank and reassure allies of the U.S. commitment to the alliance amid a buildup of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border, Defense Department officials said Wednesday.
The Pentagon will move 1,000 troops from Germany to Romania to augment the 900 U.S. servicemembers already there. The majority of the other 2,000 troops, currently stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., will be sent to Poland, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. The remaining few hundred will be stationed in Germany.
The moves are intended to send a message to Moscow that the U.S. will honor its commitment to NATO and defend any member of the alliance that is attacked, Kirby said. Though Ukraine is not a member of NATO, the country shares a border with four member states.
“These are not permanent moves,” Kirby said. “They are designed to respond to the current security environment. Moreover, these forces are not going to fight in Ukraine. They are going to ensure the robust defense of four NATO allies.”
The U.S. forces being deployed do not include the roughly 8,500 U.S.-based troops who were put on a “heightened alert” by the Pentagon last week.
Sanctions in the works
The announcement comes amid increasingly sharp dialogue between the U.S. and Russia. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of trying to goad Moscow into war, despite Moscow’s placement of roughly 100,000 troops and key pieces of military infrastructure on the Ukrainian border and naval ships near Ukraine’s shores in the Black Sea.
The Biden administration and the European Union are also preparing a multilateral sanctions package that would be triggered if Russia further invades Ukraine, as it did in 2014.
In Congress, lawmakers are preparing sanctions of their own, with a large number of members pushing for Moscow to immediately face a set of more limited sanctions, regardless of whether it invades, as punishment for its threats against Ukraine.
Putin has denied any plans to invade Ukraine, but has threatened to use “military measures” if his demands are not met. Those demands include the exclusion of Ukraine from NATO, and that the alliance pull back from Eastern Europe. Both of the demands are nonstarters in the West.
Kirby said more U.S. troops could be deployed in the future.
“There could be other moves inside Europe. We’re also not ruling out the possibility that more U.S. troops could be deployed to Europe,” Kirby said.
Immediately following Wednesday’s announcement, Republican members of Congress took opposing views on the troop deployment.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said that the United States needed to “bolster the defenses of our Eastern European NATO allies” and that he was glad to hear U.S. troops were on the way.
But others were less enthusiastic. “I am strongly opposed to President Biden’s decision to send American troops to Eastern Europe to defend countries that should defend themselves, potentially involving us in another conflict after just ending a 20-year war,” tweeted Indiana Sen. Mike Braun.
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted his opposition as well, arguing that “Europeans must do more in their own defense.”