Biden weighing deployment of US troops to NATO allies: report
President Biden is reportedly weighing the deployment of U.S. troops to NATO allies amid increased tensions with Russia and concerns that Moscow is planning an invasion of Ukraine.
The New York Times, citing unidentified administration officials, reported that Biden is considering sending troops to allied countries in the Baltics and Eastern Europe, a move that would increase the U.S. military’s presence across the globe at a time when diplomatic conversations between Washington and Moscow appear to be at a stalemate.
Biden met with senior Pentagon officials at Camp David on Sunday, when the top officials presented him with a number of options that would move U.S. military forces closer to Russia, the Times reported. Officials reportedly told the president he could deploy between 1,000 and 5,000 troops to Eastern European countries, with the option of increasing the number tenfold if circumstances unravel in the region.
More U.S. warships and military aircraft could also be sent to the region, according to the Times.
NBC News, citing unidentified defense and administration officials, reported that courses of action discussed at the meeting include sending bomber flights over the region, sending ships to the Black Sea and transferring troops and some equipment from areas in Europe to Poland, Romania and other nations in close proximity to Ukraine.
None of the options on the table, however, would send additional troops to Ukraine, the Times noted. Administration officials told the newspaper that Biden could decide next steps as early as this week. Pentagon Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both reportedly participated in the Camp David meeting virtually.
Top U.S. and Russian officials have been engaged in diplomatic discussions for days, though no breakthroughs have been reported. With talks stalled and concerns of a Russian incursion rising, the Biden administration is beginning to shift from its do-not-provoke strategy, according to the Times.
Officials told NBC News that the goal of an increased deployment is to avert Russian aggression while also illustrating that NATO is unified and strong.
“We’re going to actually increase troop presence in Poland, in Romania, etc., if in fact he moves because we have a sacred obligation in Article 5 to defend those countries. They are part of NATO,” Biden said during a press conference last week.
“We don’t have that obligation relative to Ukraine, although we have great concern about what happens in Ukraine,” he added.
NATO, meanwhile, announced on Monday that allied countries were dispatching more ships and fighter jets to alliance members in eastern Europe. The alliance also pointed to reports that the U.S. is considering deploying troops.
“The United States has also made clear that it is considering increasing its military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance,” NATO said in a statement.
Pentagon and Biden administration officials declined to comment on the new reporting to The Hill.
Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, stoking fear among the U.S. and its allies that a Russian incursion into Ukraine may be imminent. Moscow, however, has declined having plans to invade Ukraine.
Biden and top administration officials have warned that any movement of Russian forces into Ukraine would be met with serious consequences.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said a “swift, a severe and a united response” from the U.S. and Europe would follow “if a single additional Russian force goes into Ukraine in an aggressive way.”
Administration officials told the Times that the deployment of U.S. troops to eastern NATO countries — including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — is a situation that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been trying to avoid.
Biden’s reported meeting with Pentagon officials came the same day the State Department ordered family members of government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to depart the country, pointing to reports that Russia “is planning significant military action against Ukraine.”
The department also authorized nonessential staffers to leave Ukraine.
Officials told NBC News that Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, the commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander of Europe, has been arranging military options for weeks. He has reportedly been keeping Austin and Milley aware of his work.
— Updated at 7:46 a.m.
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