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Biden readies 8,500 US troops over possible Russian invasion of Ukraine

A photo of military boots during the deployment ceremony for the Alabama Army National Guard 128th Military Police Company leaving for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Bob Gathany/HVT/TNS)
January 24, 2022

The Pentagon announced on Monday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on “heightened preparedness to deploy” as a Russian invasion of Ukraine appears imminent.

“I’m going to provide some facts on these preparations that will reinforce our commitment to NATO and to the NATO response force and increase our readiness,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a press briefing Monday. “Secretary Austin has placed a range of units in the United States on a heightened preparedness to deploy, which increases our readiness to provide forces if NATO should activate the NRF, or if other situations develop. All told, the number of forces that the secretary has placed on heightened alert comes up to about 8,500 personnel.”

Kirby said that as of Monday afternoon, the decision has been made to put the troops on “higher alert and higher alert only.”

“No decisions have been made to deploy any forces from the United States at this time. When I say heightened alert, in some cases some of these forces were already on a heightened posture, readiness to deploy posture, and the secretary decided to make it even more, shorten the tether even more,” Kirby said. “So in some cases units would go from, say, 10 days from prepared to deploy, now they’re at five days. That’s not the case for every unit that is being notified that they’re on a heightened alert.”

Kirby said the U.S. takes its responsibilities to NATO “seriously,” adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin will face “severe consequences” if he invades Ukraine.

“Largely those are economic consequences,” Kirby said, later adding that officials “obviously don’t want to see another incursion in Ukraine.”

“We are using lots of levers to try to communicate why that would be a bad thing for Russia to do,” Kirby added. “But number two, and it’s not an insignificant number two, is to make sure that NATO stays unified, and that our allies are able to defend themselves. That is what this decision is all about.”

The Pentagon’s announcement comes one day after President Joe Biden’s State Department said that it will not be able to evacuate Americans from Ukraine if Russia takes military action in its neighboring nation.

“To be clear, President Biden has said military action by Russia could come at any time. The United States Government will not be in a position to evacuate U.S. citizens in such a contingency,” a senior State Department official said on Sunday during a special briefing via teleconference. “So U.S. citizens currently present in Ukraine should plan accordingly, including by availing themselves of commercial options should they choose to leave the country.”