Biden wants to move US troops to Eastern Europe soon

Status: 01/29/2022 01:36 am

US President Biden has announced that he intends to move a small – as yet unspecified – number of additional US troops to Eastern Europe in the Ukraine conflict. The announcement comes in the wake of a NATO build-up in the region.

According to President Joe Biden, the USA will soon move additional US troops to the Eastern European NATO countries because of the Ukraine crisis. According to reports from journalists traveling with him, Biden restricted it to “not too many” soldiers. Biden spoke in Washington that evening on returning from a visit to the state of Pennsylvania. He did not specify how many soldiers there might be.

On Biden’s orders, 8,500 soldiers in the United States were put on increased readiness on Monday to enable rapid transfer if necessary. Biden had emphasized that it was a precautionary measure to address concerns of Eastern European NATO members. No US soldiers would be sent to Ukraine.

Tens of thousands of US soldiers are regularly stationed in Europe, including around 35,000 in Germany, even outside of times of crisis. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said at noon that there had not yet been any orders to relocate the soldiers. They are ready, but have not yet been requested by NATO as reinforcements, Austin said at the Pentagon.

Enough Russian soldiers for attack

The US government is convinced that Russian President Vladimir Putin has now assembled sufficient military forces for a possible attack on Ukraine. “We do not believe that President Putin has made the final decision to use these forces against Ukraine,” Austin said.

“But he clearly has that ability now. And he has multiple options available to him, including taking cities and major territories,” Austin said. “Provocative political actions” such as the recognition of breakaway areas are also conceivable.

“Conflict is not inevitable”

Austin and Chief of Staff Mark Milley called on Putin to de-escalate. “We believe a diplomatic solution is the way to go here,” Milley said. The US Secretary of Defense also campaigned for a peaceful solution to the conflict. “Conflict is not inevitable, there is still time and space for diplomacy,” Austin said.

Milley warned of numerous civilian casualties in Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion. “Throughout Ukraine there are many people and very densely populated centers,” he said. “And if war should break out on the scale that is possible, civilians will suffer extremely.” Should the assembled Russian forces attack Ukraine, it “would result in a significant number of casualties. And you can imagine what that would be like in dense urban areas, along roads and so on and so forth. It would be horrific if it would be terrible.”

US soldiers on high alert

Milley said Russia had massed more than 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine. An attack could therefore take place “with very, very little warning”.

The United States also asked Hungary to station troops temporarily, the Hungarian Foreign Ministry said. The Hungarian Defense Ministry is holding talks on this issue, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said at a press conference. The request will now be checked there, it said.

Denmark and USA relocate fighter jets

Four F-16 fighter jets from the Danish Air Force have also arrived in Lithuania to strengthen NATO air surveillance over the Baltic States. Together with four Polish machines, they are supposed to control the skies over the EU and NATO member states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from the Lithuanian military airport in Siauliai.

“Today we are witnessing a great example of the unity and solidarity of the Allies,” said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda when welcoming the Danish pilots at the military airport. “It’s really gratifying to see how our allies — our friends from Denmark — are responding to the first signs of concern on NATO’s eastern flank,” Nauseda said.

Four jets and a frigate

The NATO countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania bordering Russia do not have their own fighter jets. That is why the allies have been securing the Baltic airspace in regular rotation since 2004 as part of the “NATO Air Policing Baltic States”. Usually only four fighter jets patrol from Siauliai in the Baltic airspace – together with four aircraft based in Estonia.

In view of the strong tensions with Russia and the deployment of troops on the borders with Ukraine, Denmark had announced that it would send four fighter jets and a frigate to the Baltic Sea.

Germany is considering a stronger military presence

The United States had previously deployed fighter jets to the region. According to the Estonian army, six F-15C Eagle fighter jets have landed at the Ämari military base for training purposes. The main objective of the squadron is to support the Belgian Air Force in patrolling the Baltic airspace.

Germany is also considering expanding its military presence as part of the NATO mission in Lithuania, as Nauseda previously announced. Both countries are in talks about this, said Nauseda. This is happening “in the course of current events”.

Stoltenberg: Russia is continuing to deploy troops

According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Russia is continuing to deploy troops despite all calls for de-escalation. “Russia is moving more troops, more heavy equipment, and now thousands of combat troops to Belarus,” Stoltenberg said at an online event hosted by the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington. “So the upgrade continues.”

However, there is no certainty that Putin is actually planning an invasion of Ukraine. “On the NATO side, we are ready to conduct a political dialogue, but we are also ready to react if Russia decides on an armed confrontation,” Stoltenberg said. “We are working hard for the best peaceful political solution, but we are also prepared for the worst.” Stoltenberg confirmed that NATO does not intend to send combat-ready soldiers to Ukraine.

Invasion would have “severe consequences”

An invasion of Ukraine would have “serious consequences” for Russia, according to Stoltenberg. The NATO allies are prepared to impose tough economic and political sanctions in the event of a military escalation.

However, NATO is preparing for various variants of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. A full-scale invasion could follow the concentration of troops in Russia near the Ukrainian border and in Belarus. A cyber attack, an attempted coup d’etat and sabotage are also possible. “We have to be prepared for a wide range of different forms of aggression,” said Stoltenberg.

Zelenskyj: Ongoing negotiations reduce the risk of an escalation

After a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said ongoing international negotiations reduced the likelihood of an escalation of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. “As long as conditions are conducive, we must meet and talk,” Zelenskiy tweeted, adding that he agreed with his French counterpart in maintaining the pace of diplomatic talks.

Johnson is traveling to the region in the coming days

In view of the tense situation, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to travel to the region in the coming days, according to government sources. Johnson is to be accompanied by Secretary of State Liz Truss, it said in the evening. An exact destination was not mentioned.

Johnson also wants to call President Putin. A Downing Street spokeswoman said the Prime Minister was determined to speed up diplomatic efforts and use deterrence “to avoid bloodshed in Europe”. Johnson will urge Russia to withdraw and return to the negotiating table. In addition, according to government circles, the British side is to impose further sanctions against Russia. When exactly the trip and the phone call should take place was initially unclear.

Ukraine conflict: French President Macron on the phone with Putin

Julia Borutta, ARD Paris, 28.1.2022 · 18:54 Uhr

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