As many as 8,500 U.S. troops have been put on heightened alert for a possible deployment to Eastern Europe as Russian troops mass on Ukraine’s border, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday.
The news was immediately picked up in Romania which hosts a number of NATO bases. Russia told NATO last week to pull out its troops from Romania and Bulgaria which joined the military alliance in 2004.
There are growing concerns in the region about a potential imminent invasion by Russia of neighboring Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued the prepare to deploy orders at the direction of President Joe Biden, CNN reported.
It is the latest step the U.S. has taken to prepare for a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine that officials have warned could be imminent.
The spokesman said the „bulk of” US troops placed on heightened alert were intended to bolster NATO’s quick response force.
He did not say where they might be deployed.
He said the defense secretary wanted to be „postured to be ready for any other contingencies as well.”
Earlier Monday CNN reported the Biden administration was in in the final stages of identifying specific military units it wants to send to Eastern Europe.
„In the event of NATO’s activation of the (NATO Response Force) or a deteriorating security environment, the United States would be in a position to rapidly deploy additional brigade combat teams, logistics, medical, aviation, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, transportation and additional capabilities into Europe,” Kirby said.
US troop levels
Biden discussed options for bolstering U.S. troop levels in the Baltics and Eastern Europe with his top military officials during a briefing at Camp David on Saturday, according to a senior official, CNN reported.
Kirby would not say where the US troops might deploy, but said the US has „made it clear to the Eastern flank allies that we’re prepared to bolster their capabilities if they need it.”
The news come amid U.S, warnings that a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent.
The State Department on Sunday reduced staffing at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, with the departure of nonessential staff and family members out of „an abundance of caution.”