US puts 8,500 soldiers on high alert amid Russian tensions

At the direction of President Biden, the Pentagon is putting about 8,500 US-based troops on alert for a possible deployment to Europe amid growing fears of a possible Russian military move on Ukraine.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Monday no final decision had been taken on the deployment, which he said would happen only if the NATO coalition decides to activate a rapid response force in relation to tensions over Russia’s military build-up. is “or if other conditions develop” borders Ukraine.

“It’s about assurances to our NATO allies,” Kirby said, adding that no troops are intended for deployment in Ukraine itself.

Kirby said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recommended Biden order 8,500 troops to prepare for a possible deployment to Europe, in light of signs that Russian President Vladimir Putin was not easing his military pressure on Ukraine. Huh. Kirby said he was unwilling to identify the US-based units as they were still being notified.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “We’ve always said that we will strengthen our allies in the East, and those conversations and discussions are certainly part of what our national security officials have been discussing with their counterparts for several weeks. Huh.” ,

The White House said later on Monday, Biden was to have a video call with several European leaders on the Russian military buildup and possible responses to the invasion.

Read | NATO deploys troops, ships amid concerns over Russian invasion of Ukraine

The Pentagon’s move comes as tensions rise between Russia and the West that Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine, with NATO outlining possible troop and ship deployments, with Britain saying it will be moving from Kiev. Will withdraw some diplomats, and Ireland will condemn the upcoming Russian war games. Its coast.

Prior to the US announcement, the Western Coalition statement summarized the steps already described by member states, but intended to show resolution to restore them under the NATO banner. The West is intensifying its rhetoric in the information war that comes with the Ukraine standoff.

Russia has gathered an estimated 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, Demanding NATO’s promise that it would never allow Ukraine to join and other actions, such as deploying coalition troops to former Soviet bloc countries, should be reduced. Some of this, like any resolution to permanently ban Ukraine, is a nonstarter for NATO – creating an impasse that many fear could only end in war.

Russia denies that it is planning an offensive, and says Western accusations are only a cover for NATO’s own planned provocation. Recent days have seen high level diplomacy Which failed to reach any success and maneuvers on both sides.

Read | Russia denies Britain’s claim of trying to replace Ukraine’s leader

NATO said on Monday it was increasing its “resistance” in the Baltic Sea region. Denmark is sending a warship and deploying F-16 fighters to Lithuania; Spain is sending four fighter jets and three ships to the Black Sea to Bulgaria to join NATO naval forces; And France is ready to send troops to Romania. The Netherlands also plans to send two F-35 fighters to Bulgaria from April.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO would “take all necessary measures to protect and defend all allies.” “We will always respond to any deterioration in our security environment, including by strengthening our collective defence.”

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said NATO and the US, not Russia, were behind the escalating tensions.

“All this is not happening because of what we are doing Russia. This is happening because of what NATO, America is doing, ”Peskov told reporters.

The NATO announcement came as EU foreign ministers sought a new show of unity in support of Ukraine, and paper over concerns about division on the best way to counter any Russian aggression.

In a statement, ministers said the EU had intensified preparations for the sanctions and warned that “any further military aggression by Russia against Ukraine would have massive consequences and serious costs.”

Separately, the European Union has also committed to increasing financial aid for beleaguered Ukraine, which it promises to proceed through a special package of 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in loans and grants as soon as possible.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday and said the US would give Russia a written response to Moscow’s proposals this week, offering some hope that any aggression would take at least a few more days. delay may occur.

Read | US orders families of diplomats in Ukraine to leave the country amid fears of Russian aggression

The West is watching the movements and war games of Russian forces in Belarus nervously for any signs of aggression. Russia has already invaded Ukraine once, occupying the Crimean peninsula in 2014. It also supported pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists, known as Donbass, fighting the Kiev government in the country’s eastern region. About 14,000 people have died in the conflict.

Asked whether the EU would follow a US move and order the families of European embassy personnel in Ukraine to leave, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “We are not going to do the same thing. “

Britain said it was withdrawing some diplomats and dependents from its Kiev embassy.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said an invasion was not inevitable, but “intelligence is very depressed.” He added that “I think the sentiment may still prevail.”

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said the US decision was “a premature step” and a sign of “extreme caution”. He said that Russia is creating panic among Ukrainians and foreigners to destabilize Ukraine.

Germany has issued no such order, with Foreign Minister Annalena Barbock insisting that “we must not contribute to further destabilizing the situation.”

At an EU meeting, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said he would inform his counterparts about the planned Russian war games 240 kilometers (150 mi) from south-western Ireland – in international waters but within Ireland’s exclusive economic zone. within.

“This is not the time to increase military activity and tensions with Ukraine and in the context of what is happening in Ukraine.” They said. “The fact that they are choosing to do it on the western borders, if you like, the European Union, off the Irish coast, is something that is not welcome in our view.”

NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania said they plan to send US-made anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, which Washington has backed.

In talks with European allies throughout the crisis, administration officials said they are aware that Europe’s trade, energy and financial ties with Russia are far more important than those of the US.

Russia’s fragile economy is heavily dependent on energy exports. President Vladimir Putin has made clear his ambition to diversify the economy, particularly in sectors such as defense and civil aviation, but US and European allies have been increasingly involved in the production and export of technologies, software and equipment critical to Russia in those areas. occupies a prominent position.

According to a second senior administration official, during the talks, European officials have outlined a “valid analysis and understanding … of what would really hurt Russia” and what the “collateral cost” could be.

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Watch: This is why Russia is building up a military presence on the Ukraine border