US Sends 3,000 More Troops to Europe, Asks Americans to Leave Ukraine

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A Ukrainian soldier marches on the separation line of pro-Russian rebels, in Mariupol, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Thursday, January 20, 2022. Credit – AP Photo/Andriy Dubchak

The Biden administration has ordered 3,000 more troops sent to central Europe, following intelligence warnings that the Russian military could invade Ukraine at any moment.

The deployment is part of a realignment of US firepower on the European continent amid looming fears of all-out war, according to a senior Defense Department official. Over the past two weeks, President Joe Biden has moved troops, warships and warplanes to Eastern Europe in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military escalation.

In a show of force not seen since the Cold War, Russia has positioned more than 100,000 troops in several countries along Ukraine’s borders. The Biden administration initially pursued diplomacy in hopes of resolving the deteriorating situation. But the lack of progress and the continued buildup of Russian forces have prompted the United States to develop more aggressive strategies to deter Putin.

The decision to deploy 3,000 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division to Poland is the latest move by the White House to show solidarity with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies concerned about massive combat power of Russia. On February 2, Biden ordered a Stryker Army squadron of 1,000 soldiers to move from Germany to Romania. On the same day, he sent 2,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division and 300 soldiers from the 18th Airborne Corps to Poland. Romania and Poland are NATO members that border Ukraine to the south and west, respectively, and they are preparing for refugee flows and potential border security issues if Moscow invades through the north and east.

US forces are not being sent to Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, and will not participate in any combat role in the event of a Russian invasion of the country, the US said. Instead, US forces will serve as reinforcements to reassure US allies and deter further aggression from Moscow, Washington said.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday that the United States believed a Russian military incursion into Ukraine could be imminent, and said any campaign would begin with an aerial bombardment followed by a ground invasion that would jeopardize escape routes. “All Americans in Ukraine should leave as soon as possible, and in any event within the next 24 to 48 hours,” he said. “If you stay, you assume risks, with no guarantee that there will be another possibility of leaving and no prospect of American military evacuation in the event of a Russian invasion.”

Sullivan said the United States was uncertain whether Putin made the decision to invade, but said it could happen at any time, even during the Beijing Olympics, which ends Feb. 20. The Ukrainian government, on the other hand, has called for calm, saying there is no reason to panic over warnings from the US secret service that an invasion is imminent. Putin has always maintained that he has no intention of moving to Ukraine, but he has expressed concerns about NATO’s military expansion along its borders in recent decades.

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Russia this week began naval exercises in the Black Sea and joint military exercises in neighboring Belarus. The forces are only a fraction of the buildup of Russian troops, tanks and artillery that now surrounds Ukraine. The White House said Biden had a rare multilateral call on Friday with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Canada, NATO, the European Union , Poland and Romania.

The White House and its European allies have scrambled for months to respond since Russia began moving forces along the border. Putin tried to use the deployment as leverage against the United States to reduce troops, weapons and influence in central and eastern Europe. The United States and Russia have spoken several times to try to resolve the crisis diplomatically, but have not yet narrowed their differences. In recent days, Putin has insisted that “main Russian concerns have turned out to be ignored” by the United States and NATO countries.

The White House warned Putin that the United States and its allies would adopt a broad set of sanctions aimed at crippling the Russian economy rather than taking military action against it if it invaded Ukraine. There are about 200 US troops currently in Ukraine, where members of the Florida National Guard have trained forces in the west of the country, away from areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists in the east. The United States now has over 80,000 troops on the continent.

Read more: The Untold Story of the Ukraine Crisis

The Pentagon has alerted more than 8,500 US military personnel for possible deployment to bolster the defenses of NATO allies, but not for a combat role. After the chaotic pullout from Afghanistan, Biden made it clear he had no plans to send combat troops to Ukraine, despite sending over $600 million in security aid to his government over the past year.

Unlike Afghanistan, there are no plans for a US military-led effort to evacuate US citizens from Ukraine if Russia invades, Sullivan said, which is why Americans should leave immediately. “We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Sullivan said. “But the risk is now high enough, and the threat is now sufficiently immediate, that this is what caution demands.”