A U.S. European Command spokesperson told CNN on Tuesday night that the U.S. is sending two Patriot missile batteries to Poland as part of a “defensive deployment” to counter any potential threat to state allies. United and NATO.
In total, the United States repositioned nearly 15,000 troops in response to Russian aggression. The total number of US troops in Europe is now expected to reach 100,000. Along with the US effort comes a dramatic boost in NATO deterrence, as any US military operation would almost certainly be under the NATO umbrella. .
“We have 130 jets on high alert. More than 200 ships from the Far North to the Mediterranean, and thousands more troops in the region,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday. during a trip to Latvia.
The latest deployment includes an “air support” operations center to Poland and Romania, as well as refueling and maintenance specialists in Germany to bolster US and NATO air operations in the region. . The Fifth Army Corps also deploys 300 headquarters troops to Poland and Germany to provide command and control of US ground forces.
The U.S. Navy briefly positioned an aircraft carrier in the northern Aegean Sea this week that could be used for emergency air operations if tensions escalate.
Any troop movements were long overdue, a senior defense official insisted. But there is no doubt that this is to protect against any possible Russian incursion into NATO member countries.
While the United States is adamant about its intention to avoid direct conflict, the Pentagon deployments aim to establish a military structure both to deter Russia from expanding the scope of its war and to prepare a deliberate or accidental spillover of combat into NATO territory.
“One of the things we talked about is the importance of protecting NATO territory, and that includes NATO airspace,” a defense official told CNN.
In the air, dozens of American aircraft — including advanced F-35 fighter jets and intelligence and reconnaissance aircraft — conduct daily patrols on deterrence and intelligence-gathering missions, while staying out of Ukrainian airspace and out of range of anti-Russian aircraft weapons.
Protect against a wider war
These measures are a recognition that the US military must be prepared for contingencies that Europe’s largest ground war since World War II may not remain confined to Ukraine’s borders.
Part of the concern of US officials is that Russian President Vladimir Putin might decide to attack NATO countries, especially if he feels cornered. Last week, the Kremlin presented a list of “de facto hostile countries”, including the United States.
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, a national security and military analyst for CNN, said the Biden administration’s beefing up of NATO is important both to allay fears of NATO nations that had worried in the past about the US military’s commitment to Europe and to sending a clear message of deterrence to Putin.
“Putin went into this whole thing with Ukraine thinking the United States wouldn’t do anything, and I think he’s very surprised at what he’s seeing right now,” Hertling said. “I don’t think Putin is stupid enough to go head-to-head with NATO…but if he does, he will be outgunned and outmanned, apart from nuclear weapons.”
An air defense umbrella
As concern mounts in Eastern Europe that the Russians could launch a potential attack on NATO’s eastern flank, the United States is increasing its defensive missile capabilities there, according to a US official familiar with current thinking administration.
“The United States is considering a range of capabilities,” the official said. Along with moving Patriot missile batteries to Poland, potential deliveries could also include THAAD anti-missile systems, which have been used successfully in the Middle East to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles.
There is no specific plan yet, but the idea is centered on the fear that Russian missiles or planes could attack targets inside NATO territory at some point if Putin decides that the These nations’ support for Ukraine threatens its plans there. And due to the proximity of airspace, there are also fears that air defense will be available if Russian planes inadvertently stray into NATO airspace.
The establishment of a so-called US-Russian deconfliction line was partly intended to address these concerns.
But there is a feeling that an air defense umbrella is needed, not just a means of communication.
Due to the defensive nature of these systems, the United States will emphasize that Russia should have no concerns.
American naval preparations
US naval forces are also studying how they might respond to Russian aggression. The Harry S Truman aircraft carrier visited the North Aegean Sea this week in part to ensure it can conduct air operations from there if tensions escalate in the region, according to a American official familiar with the current task of the aircraft carrier.
The official did not reveal the ship’s exact location, but noted that it was not common to operate in the northernmost waters of the Aegean Sea. The area is relatively restricted for shipping operations due to the number of small islands and heavy commercial shipping traffic.
“In the event of further escalation,” the navy could be asked to project more jet-powered air patrols into the Black Sea, the official said. “If Russia sought to manage the Turkish Strait and Turkey requested NATO support”, then the aircraft carriers could be used for combat air patrols over the Black Sea and the Strait of the Dardanelles.
Turkey administers clearance to transit the Black Sea for warships and there are concerns about Russia’s future plans there, so keeping this waterway open would be part of any potential US effort. and NATO if Turkey asked for help.
This story has been updated.