US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 troops on “heightened preparedness to deploy” to Europe in case NATO decides to activate its rapid-response force over the ongoing situation in Ukraine, the Pentagon said Monday.
The troops have been placed on “higher alert only” and “no final decision has been made to deploy them,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
The deployment may happen if and when NATO decides to activate its rapid response force (NRF), which consists of about 40,000 troops from various member countries. Kirby said the US maintains “significant combat capable forces forward in Europe to deter aggression.”
Earlier in the day, the New York Times reported that the White House was considering a plan to send between 1,000 and 5,000 troops to the Baltics and Eastern Europe as a way to deter Russia from “invading” Ukraine. US intelligence has claimed an invasion was imminent since late October. Moscow has dismissed the accusation as “fake news.”
While there is no specific mission for the troops that have been alerted, Kirby said the Pentagon hopes to be able to deploy “additional brigade combat teams, logistics personnel, medical support, aviation support, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance” if required.
Meanwhile, the US has sent more military aid to Ukraine last week than ever before in a single year, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. He added that the US will submit its written response to Moscow’s security proposals sometime this week.
Though the US hopes to work together with Russia in some unspecified areas, Price said there was “no trade space, absolutely none” on the issue of further NATO expansion. This was the key “red line” in Moscow’s proposal, however.
As the US and UK began evacuating some staff and dependents from their embassies in Kiev, the government of Ukraine said Monday there was “no need to panic” and that there was, in fact, no threat from a Russian invasion in the near future.