The Columbus Dispatch

American troops bolster NATO in eastern Europe

- Rick Rouan

President Joe Biden has vowed the U.S. military would not engage Russian troops, instead opting for what the administra­tion has called “swift and severe” economic sanctions in an attempt to deter the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Pentagon has been reposition­ing personnel in allied countries in eastern Europe for weeks, deploying forces in the United States to Europe and shifting those already on the continent to former Soviet bloc states.

The U.S. has about 90,000 troops in Europe; the largest concentrat­ion is based in Germany.

Biden said Tuesday during an address to the nation that he had authorized U.S. forces and equipment already stationed in Europe to move into Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It was among the latest in a series of U.S. military moves as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine escalated.

While those countries along Russia’s western border are among the 30 members of NATO, Ukraine is not – a key point in the conflict. Moscow has sought to deter Ukraine from becoming a NATO member in an attempt to blunt Western influence in the region.

Late Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a televised declaratio­n of war in Ukraine, claiming an invasion was necessary to protect civilians.

Late Wednesday evening, Russian forces began a military operation in eastern Ukraine.

Biden and Pentagon officials have said repeatedly that U.S. troop movements in the region are temporary and defensive.

“These are totally defensive moves on our part. We have no intention of fighting Russia,” Biden said in an address to the nation Tuesday. “We want to send an unmistakab­le message, though, that the United States and its allies will defend every inch of NATO territory.”

More than one-third of the 90,000 U.S. troops in Europe are stationed in Germany. But the Pentagon shifted

some of those personnel to shore up NATO’S eastern flank in anticipati­on of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Air and ground personnel already in Europe were ordered to move to NATO’S northeaste­rn and southeaste­rn flanks on Tuesday. That includes about 800 troops in an infantry battalion task force moving from Italy to the Baltic region, according to the Pentagon.

Eight F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and 20 AH-64 helicopter­s in Germany, along with another 12 AH-64 helicopter­s in Greece, were ordered to move into the Baltic region.

Those latest moves were in addition to about 1,000 U.S. troops already stationed in Europe shifting into Romania, including a regiment from Vilseck, Germany, that brought armored fighting vehicles. Groups of 125 U.S. Army soldiers conducted training missions in Bulgaria and Hungary this month.

About 5,000 U.s.-based forces also have been sent to Europe, including 4,700 service members sent to Germany and an infantry brigade combat team sent to Poland. The 160 members of the Florida National Guard who had been deployed to Ukraine since November were reposition­ed within Europe.

NATO has access to about 40,000 troops in its NATO Response Force but so far has not activated that group. About 5,000 of those troops have been placed on heightened alert.

 ?? OMAR MARQUES/GETTY IMAGES ?? A U.S. Army soldier prepares a backpack at the Arlamow Airport in Wola Korzenieck­a, Poland, Wednesday.
OMAR MARQUES/GETTY IMAGES A U.S. Army soldier prepares a backpack at the Arlamow Airport in Wola Korzenieck­a, Poland, Wednesday.

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