The United States has deployed about 8,500 troops in Central and Eastern Europe to help strengthen NATO’s defenses as Western leaders come together to cement a unified response to the threat of Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“While we continue to prioritize diplomacy and dialogue, we must also step up our readiness to support NATO’s security and defense commitments and the security of its citizens abroad,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. briefing on monday.
“On the instructions of the President and following the recommendations of the Secretary [Lloyd] “Austin, the United States has taken steps to increase the readiness of its forces at home and abroad,” he added. “They are ready to respond to a number of unforeseen situations, including support for the NATO Response Force if activated.
A decision has not yet been made on whether to deploy troops, Kirby said. NATO’s Multinational Response Force, if activated, will include up to 40,000 personnel.
The Pentagon’s announcement came just before President Joe Biden held a videoconference from the White House’s situation room with Western leaders to coordinate the response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which he fears may be imminent.
Western countries are discussing a package of economic and financial sanctions to be imposed on Russia, as well as military aid to Kiev and the deployment of troops, planes and warships to protect NATO allies in Eastern and Central Europe.
According to the White House, the talks were expected to include Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, Emmanuel Macron, the French President, Andrzej Duda, the Prime Minister of Poland and Mario Draghi, the Italian Prime Minister and EU leaders. and the Secretary General of NATO.
The virtual meeting of Western leaders followed days of escalating warnings that an Russian invasion could be imminent, including a British warning that Moscow plans to install a pro-Kremlin puppet government in Ukraine.
In an ominous statement Monday, Johnson said there was evidence of Russia’s plans for a “lightning war that could destroy” the Ukrainian capital, which would be a “painful, violent and bloody affair” for Moscow. “I think it’s very important for people in Russia to understand that this could be a new Chechnya,” he said.
Britain on Monday ordered a number of embassy staff and family members to leave Ukraine. The move came after the United States on Sunday told family members of its embassy staff to leave Kiev because of the risk of “significant military action” by Russia.
Despite the growing drumbeat of military conflict, Western diplomats continue to stress that a diplomatic solution is still possible. Anthony Blinken, the secretary of state, said the United States would send written responses to Russia’s demands in the coming days, which could ease tensions and provide a basis for an agreement.