Pentagon mulling more permanent US troops in Eastern Europe

The Pentagon is seen on Thursday, November 4, 2021 in Arlington, Va.
Greg Nash

The Pentagon is deciding if it should add more U.S. troops to NATO-member countries in Eastern Europe on a permanent basis following Russia’s attack on Ukraine last week, a top Defense Department official said Tuesday. 

“We recognize this dynamic situation now requires us to give it another fine-tooth look to see what’s necessary to ensure that we’ve got deterrence of Russia and that we can absolutely 150 percent say that NATO is safe and secure,” Mara Karlin, the assistant Defense secretary for strategy, plans and capabilities, told lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee. 

“So we’re looking at what sort of troop presence, whether it’s rotational or permanent, is necessary given this current security environment, both in the near term and frankly, in the long term,” she added.  

Karlin said the Pentagon will take another look at the 2021 Global Posture review, released late last year. The document, which looked closely at troop numbers in Europe and elsewhere, at the time found forces to be “about right,” in their locations and offered no recommendations for major shifts.  

Karlin was responding to the committee’s ranking member Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) who said that prior to Russia’s attack, there were discussions of sending permanently-stationed U.S. troops to Romania and other Baltic countries.  

Several Eastern European countries in the past month have become more vocal about asking the United States for more American troops to be stationed within their borders after the Kremlin’s incursion set off fears that Moscow may move to attack other nations.  

Kosovo earlier this week asked the U.S. to establish a permanent military base in the country and called for accelerating its membership to NATO as “immediate need[s] to guarantee peace, security and stability in the Western Balkans.” 

The U.S. currently contributes 635 troops to Kosovo as part of a NATO peacekeeping mission in the country, whose independence is recognized by more than 110 countries but not by Russia and four NATO members.   

Last month, ex-Soviet nation Lithuania — where the U.S. keeps a rotational force of about 500 troops — indicated that it would also ask the U.S. to permanently station America forces there.  

The Biden administration has already surged roughly 15,000 U.S. troops to Eastern Europe to bolster NATO’s defense capabilities, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to security concerns in the region. 

In addition, the administration has asked Congress for $6.4 million, including $3.5 billion for the Pentagon, to respond to the conflict. Those billions would pay for American forces operating in Europe and weapons the U.S. government is sending to Ukraine. 

The United States in the past year has committed roughly $1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, including its most recent package of lethal aid worth $350 million authorized last week.  

Tags Eastern Europe Kosovo Lithuania Mike Rogers military aid NATO Russia U.S. troops Ukraine United States

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