To counter Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats of an attack in Ukraine, the U.S. is considering sending thousands of additional troops to Eastern Europe. At the same time, NATO member states are deploying troops, fighter jets, and ships in the region.
For weeks now, Moscow has roughly 127,000 troops stationed near Ukraine and has been threatening to invade its eastern neighbor, which it sees slipping through its sphere of influence and moving toward the West.
U.S. Military and NATO Respond
In the initial weeks of the tensions, which started around November, the U.S. and NATO stuck mostly to words and diplomacy, trying to mediate between Russia and Ukraine to avoid a military confrontation.
However, as the weeks have gone by and Moscow has become increasingly more aggressive against its neighbor, the U.S. and NATO are becoming determined themselves.
The U.S. military has placed 8,500 troops on high alert for a potential no-notice deployment to Eastern Europe under NATO’s Response Force.
These troops include brigade combat teams, fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, medical staff, and logistical and transportation capabilities.
Meanwhile, the Truman Carrier Strike Group is currently in the Mediterranean conducting a large-scale naval exercise under NATO command. The aircraft carrier can field nine squadrons, including F/A-18F/E Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler fighter jets, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye tactical airborne aircraft, C-2A Greyhound transport, and MH-60S Knight Hawk and MH-60R Sea Hawk transport and anti-submarine warfare helicopters.
“I think this is a whole-of-government approach. It’s not just about the Department of Defense, and quite frankly, as you’ve been seeing from other NATO allies who have also not only spoken to their concerns about what Russia is doing but actually moved on delivery of security assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, it’s an international community effort,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters.
In addition to the U.S., several other NATO allies have committed military assets to Europe’s eastern flank.
Denmark is dispatching a frigate in the Baltic Sea and four F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets in Lithuania. Spain is deploying warships in the Mediterranean and is also pondering sending fighter jets to Bulgaria.
France, the largest military in Europe, is willing to commit troops under NATO command for deployment to Romania. Finally, the Netherlands is sending two F-35A fighter jets to Bulgaria and has placed ground and maritime units on high alert for a potential deployment through the NATO Response Force mechanism.
“I welcome Allies contributing additional forces to NATO. NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all Allies, including by reinforcing the eastern part of the Alliance. We will always respond to any deterioration of our security environment, including through strengthening our collective defence,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a press release.
Allied Spirit 22
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army is holding a major ground exercise in Germany. Allied Spirit 22 started on January 21 and is set to take place until early February.
More than 5,000 troops from 15 nations (Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Moldova, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.) are participating. Should tensions with Russia escalate, these troops would be very close to the area of interest.