President Joe Biden told reporters late Friday that he plans to deploy some U.S. troops to Eastern Europe in the near future.
“I’ll be moving US troops to Eastern Europe and the NATO countries in the near term. Not a lot,” Biden told reporters at Joint Base Andrews before departing for his return to the White House.
On Monday, the Pentagon announced that the administration has placed 8,500 troops on ready-to-deploy orders due to the “imminent” Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Department of Defense Press Secretary John Kirby said on Thursday that some of those troops include the 82nd Airborne Division and the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C., the 4th Infantry at Fort Carson, Colo., as well as troops at Fort Campbell, Ky., Fort Davis-Monthan, Ariz.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Lewis McChord, Wash.; Fort Polk, La.; Robins Air Force Base, Ga.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; and “select additional locations in the U.S.”
“These units all told include medical support, aviation support, logistics support, and of course, combat formations,” Kirby said, though he would not say how many of the 8,500 troops were combat troops.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters during a press conference on Friday that Biden has “been real clear that he does not intend to put combat troops into Ukraine for the purpose of conducting combat operations.”
“Any troops that we deploy, if we deploy troops to the region, are those troops that are already in the region have multiple capabilities,” Austin added.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said on Friday that the U.S. currently doesn’t have any permanent forces, bases, or offensive combat weapon systems in Ukraine. Fewer than 200 U.S. troops are currently in Ukraine on a temporary training and advisory mission.
Milley and Austin both echoed the administration’s message that the U.S. military is prepared to do whatever it takes to defend its allies.
The Pentagon said on Thursday that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is “imminent.”
Kirby said “imminent” doesn’t mean an attack will take place “tomorrow,” and the administration has considered an attack imminent “for a couple of months now” based on Russia’s movement of military assets near Ukraine.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also echoed Kirby’s comments, saying on Thursday, “We can’t get in the mind of President Putin, but obviously, an invasion could happen at any time. But we have not made a prediction of that; the President has not made a prediction of the timing. And again, we’ll let others assess what tens of thousands of troops at the border means.”
Despite the U.S.’s preparations for an imminent Russian attack, Ukraine took a less urgent approach and expressed on Thursday that they did not anticipate a Russian invasion in the next two weeks as diplomatic efforts are undertaken.
“The good news is that [Russian] advisers agreed to meet in Berlin in two weeks, which means that Russia for the next two weeks is likely to remain on the diplomatic track,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said, according to Reuters.
“We understand that a military operation is something they keep in the pocket, it’s not something they put ahead of other options,” he added.