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8500 US Troops Placed On Alert For Possible Deployment to Ukraine As Russian Invasion Threat Increases

8500 US Troops Placed On Alert For Possible Deployment to Ukraine As Russian Invasion Threat Increases

As many as 8,500 US troops have been put on heightened alert for a possible deployment to Eastern Europe as Russian troops assemble en masse on Ukraine’s border, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday.

The news comes amid US warnings that a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent. The State Department reduced staffing at the US embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday, with nonessential staff and family members were sent back stateside out of “an abundance of caution.” The goal of sending military reinforcements to Eastern Europe would be to provide deterrence and to reassure allies, and there’s been no suggestion US combat troops would deploy to Ukraine or take part in any combat roles, Kirby said, noting the US does have military advisers in Ukraine.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued the prepare to deploy orders at the direction of President Joe Biden, the latest step the US has taken to prepare for a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine that officials have warned could be imminent. Earlier on Monday CNN reported the Biden administration was in the final stages of identifying specific military units it wants to send to Eastern Europe, according to multiple US and defense officials. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address Monday that Ukrainian citizens have “no reason to panic” as authorities are “working for the full de-escalation of the situation” in eastern Ukraine.

Kirby said that the “bulk of” US troops placed on heightened alert were intended to bolster NATO’s quick response force, but added they would be “postured to be ready for any other contingencies as well.” As of Monday afternoon, no final decision to deploy the troops had been made, Kirby emphasized, but Biden was holding a secure video call with European leaders on Monday afternoon, which the White House said was part of the administration’s consultation and coordination with European allies in response to Russia’s military buildup.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said a decision to increase US troops could come ahead of Russian forces moving across the Ukrainian border, but said such a move did not amount to a shift in Biden’s thinking. “We have never ruled out the option of providing additional assistance in advance of an invasion. Those discussions have been ongoing,” she said.

The US is continuing to engage diplomatically with Russia, but recent talks have failed to bring about any breakthroughs. Russia has said that the US and NATO must commit to never admitting Ukraine into NATO and pull back military deployments from Eastern European counties, including Romania and Bulgaria. The US has said repeatedly these demands are a non-starter, though Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week the US would respond in writing to Moscow’s demands following his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

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