Biden to send US troops to Eastern Europe
Washington, Jan 29: US President Joe Biden said Friday he will soon send a small number of US troops to bolster the NATO presence in Eastern Europe amid concerns around a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The United States and other Western nations have voiced concern over Russian troop buildup on its border with Ukraine, claiming that Russia is planning an incursion into Ukraine. Russia insists it does not plan to invade Ukraine and has demanded security guarantees from NATO, including a promise Ukraine will not join the military alliance.
What did Biden say?
"I'll be moving troops to Eastern Europe and the NATO countries in the near term. Not too many," Biden told reporters.
This week, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said 8,500 troops were on "heightened alert" for possible deployment to assist NATO.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but the US fears spillover into neighboring NATO countries if Russia attacks Ukraine.
Biden said in a press conference last week that the US would increase troop presence in the region in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
"We're going to actually increase troop presence in Poland, in Romania, etcetera if, in fact, [Putin] moves [troops into Ukraine]," Biden said. "They are part of NATO."
Russia has a 'full range of options'
Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Friday that the buildup of Russian forces near Ukraine's border has reached the point where Russian President Vladimir Putin has a complete range of military options.
"While we don't believe that President Putin has made a final decision to use these forces against Ukraine, he clearly now has the capability," Austin said at a Pentagon news conference.
Austin said Putin could use any portion of his force to seize Ukrainian cities and "significant territories" or to carry out "coercive acts or provocative political acts" like the recognition of eastern Ukraine's pro-Russian breakaway states.
Earlier this week, the US and NATO formally rejected Russian demands around security guarantees, while sending counterproposals to Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the counterproposals sent by the United States were better than those sent by NATO.