Amid growing tensions with Russia over the Ukraine crisis, US President Joe Biden has announced to send over 2,000 troops to Poland and Germany while shifting another 1,000 soldiers from Germany to Romania as demonstrations of America's commitments to allies on NATO's eastern flank, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Russia has fired back with a sharply worded objection, calling the deployments unfounded and “destructive.” Russian President Vladimir Putin also had a new telephone exchange with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Readouts from both governments showed no progress, with Putin saying the West was giving no ground on Russia's security concerns and Johnson expressing deep concern about Russia's “hostile activity” on the Ukrainian border.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the soon-to-deploy US forces are intended to temporarily bolster the US and allied defensive positions and will not enter Ukraine.
“These are not permanent moves,” Biden said, stressing that the purpose is to reassure allies at a time of heightened tension over Russia's buildup of an estimated 100,000 troops along Ukraine's borders. Kirby said Russia had continued its buildup, even in the previous 24 hours, despite U.S. urgings that it deescalate.
The newly announced US troop movements are in line with expectations based on Biden administration efforts to reassure allies and demonstrate US resolve without undermining efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis. In Moscow, however, a senior official said they will complicate the crisis.
“The unfounded destructive steps will only fuel military tensions and narrow the field for political decisions,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said in remarks carried by the Interfax news agency.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba again played down fears of a Russian attack in a call with reporters but said that if Russia makes moves that could signal an imminent invasion Ukraine would react as necessary.
The US already has several thousand troops in Poland, and Romania is host to a NATO missile defence system that Russia considers a threat to its security. Biden notably has not sent American military reinforcements to the three Baltic countries on NATO's eastern flank — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — that are former states of the Soviet Union.
Of the 2,000 newly deploying from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, about 1,700 are members of the 82nd Airborne Division infantry brigade, who will go to Poland. The other 300 are with the 18th Airborne Corps and will go to Germany as what the Pentagon called a “joint task force-capable headquarters.”
Poland's Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter that the U.S. deployment to his country is “a strong signal of solidarity in response to the situation in Ukraine.”