WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is preparing to deploy thousands of soldiers to Europe in the coming days, though those troops aren’t expected to fight in Ukraine should Russia attack that country.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Wednesday that 1,000 soldiers based in Germany will move to Romania and that 2,000 troops from Fort Bragg in North Carolina will deploy to Poland and Germany. Another 8,500 members of the military are in a “heightened posture,” but aren’t being deployed at this time.
National Guard soldiers stationed in Ukraine will remain there for now and continue to train, advise and assist that country’s military, Kirby said.
Pentagon officials don’t believe that “conflict is inevitable,” but Kirby said they want to send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders that the United States is prepared to defend its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Kirby, however, declined to say if there is any intelligence or belief among Pentagon officials that Russia is prepared to go beyond Ukraine, which isn’t a NATO country, if it does in fact invade that nation.
“He clearly is providing himself many options, lots more capabilities,” Kirby said, referring to Putin. “For exactly what purpose? We don’t know right now. And because we don’t know exactly what his purpose is, we want to make sure we’re ready on the NATO front to defend our allies.”
The U.S. troops will not be under NATO command while on the “temporary” deployment, but will be there under bilateral agreements between the U.S. and Germany, Poland and Romania.
The 1,000 soldiers moving from Germany to Romania are intended to “augment” the 900 U.S. troops already in that country. The members of the 82nd Airborne Division heading to Poland and the 18th Airborne Corps deploying to Germany, both from Fort Bragg in North Carolina, are intended to “deter aggression” as well as “reassure and defend” U.S. allies.
Kirby said the troop movements weren’t intended to be an assessment of what Putin will or will not do with respect to Ukraine or any other Eastern European countries.
“We do not know if Russia has made a final decision to further invade Ukraine, but it clearly has that capability,” Kirby said.
Kirby declined to define how temporary the deployments may be or what the Pentagon’s exit strategy is, but did say the Defense Department defines success as making sure NATO’s “eastern flank” nations are prepared to defend themselves and that the United States military is part of that defense.
Secondarily, he said, military commanders want to make it “very clear” to NATO allies and to Putin that the United States takes its “NATO commitment seriously.”
Under Article Five, if any NATO nation is attacked, it is considered an attack against all nations within the alliance.