In the wake of the Russian occupation of the Donbas region and sending its forces to Ukrainian separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, President Joe Biden ordered U.S. troops already based in Europe to shore up the defenses of nations bordering Ukraine.?
Biden directed Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin to move forces within the U.S. European Command’s area of operations to the Baltic Republics, Poland and Ukraine’s southeastern flank.?
The forces will move within a week, Defense Department officials said.?
The deployment follows Russia’s renewed invasion of eastern Ukraine and the mobilization of its forces all along the borders of Ukraine.
Russia’s upper house of parliament authorized President Vladimir Putin to send troops into two parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed rebels.
Biden made it clear that his authorization of additional movements of U.S. forces and equipment already stationed in Europe to strengthen Baltic allies is “totally defensive.”
“We have no intention of fighting Russia,” Biden said. “We want to send an unmistakable message though: that the United States together with our allies will defend every inch of NATO territory. And abide by the commitments we made to NATO.” ?
Austin has ordered an infantry battalion task force of about 800 soldiers to deploy from Italy to the Baltic region. He also approved the movement of up to eight F-35 Lightning II aircraft from Germany to operating locations on NATO’s eastern flank.?
Twenty AH-64 Apache attack helicopters will also deploy from Germany to the Baltic region and 12 Apache helicopters will move from Greece to Poland. ?
“These additional personnel are being repositioned to reassure our NATO allies, deter any potential aggression against NATO member states, and train with host-nation forces,” DOD officials said in a written statement. All forces are under the command of Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, the commander of U.S. European Command. ?
Officials said the moves are temporary.??
These moves are the latest in a series designed to reassure the frontline states. The United States sent 1,000 soldiers from a Stryker squadron from Germany to Romania. An 82nd Airborne Division infantry brigade combat team will be deployed to Poland from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Company-sized Stryker units will deploy to Hungary and Bulgaria. ?
In addition, Austin ordered 8,500 service members to a heightened state of readiness should NATO activate its Rapid Reaction Force.?
Overall, there are about 90,000 U.S. service members currently based in Europe.?
During a meeting in the Pentagon Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin told Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba that American support for Ukraine’s self-defense, sovereignty and territorial integrity is “unwavering.”
The foreign minister met with Austin as Russia moved forces into the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. More than 150,000 Russian troops almost surround Ukraine’S borders.
Austin told Kuleba that Russia’s latest invasion not only threatens Ukraine but the peace, security and prosperity of the Trans-Atlantic community.
Russia first moved into Ukraine in 2014, occupying Crimea and fomenting violence in the Donbas region. Since then, the United States has committed more than $2.7 billion in assistance to Ukraine including $650 million in 2021 alone.
The Ukrainian foreign minister said his country is not seeking a war. “We want to find solutions through diplomacy. But if the war is imposed on us by President Putin, we will be defending ourselves and we will be more than grateful for all the assistance that you can provide to us,” he told Austin.
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