Pentagon stresses US forces are not going to Ukraine, but to bolster the security of NATO nations in Eastern Europe.
The United States is sending 2,000 additional soldiers to Europe and repositioning another 1,000 from Germany to Romania to ensure the “robust defence” of European NATO members, the Pentagon has said, amid the ongoing impasse between Russia and Ukraine.
US Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday that the troop deployment would take place in the coming days. He said it is separate from, and in addition to, the 8,500 soldiers that the Pentagon put on heightened alert last week.
Kirby stressed, however, that the US forces are not going to be deployed to Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.
“These movements are unmistakable signals to the world that we stand ready to reassure our NATO allies and deter and defend against any aggression,” he said.
A source familiar with the details told the Reuters news agency that 1,700 soldiers would deploy from Fort Bragg in the US state of North Carolina to Poland and another 300 would be sent from the base to Germany.
The Russian military has been amassing troops near the country’s border with Ukraine, sparking a diplomatic crisis and heightening US and European fears that Moscow may be preparing for an imminent invasion of its neighbour.
Russia has denied it is planning to invade, but has vehemently opposed Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO. Moscow also wants security guarantees that the US-led alliance will stop its expansion into former Soviet republics, but Washington and NATO have rejected the demand as a “non-starter”.
On Wednesday, Kirby confirmed media reports that Washington offered to allow Moscow to confirm there are no Tomahawk cruise missiles at bases in Romania and Poland – on the condition that Russia reciprocates with its own “transparency measures”.
Spanish newspaper El Pais had published US documents outlining the proposals earlier in the day.
Kirby said while the US did not make the documents public, they illustrate that Washington is serious about resolving the crisis diplomatically.
“If Russia actually wants to negotiate a solution as it claims it does, this document certainly makes clear that there is a path forward to do so,” he said.
The US delivered written responses addressing Russia’s security concerns last week, but senior Russian officials have responded with wariness to Washington’s position.
“It is already clear that fundamental Russian concerns ended up being ignored,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday – his first comments on the ongoing crisis in more than a month.
Putin said the Kremlin was studying a response from the US and NATO but said the replies had been far from adequate. He accused the US of using Ukraine as a “tool” in its efforts to contain Russia, but said it was still possible to find a solution to end the crisis.
“I hope that we will eventually find a solution, although we realise that it’s not going to be easy,” Putin said.
Kirby also told reporters on Wednesday that war can be avoided.
“The Department of Defense will continue to support diplomatic efforts led by the White House and the State Department to press for a resolution. We do not believe conflict is inevitable,” he said.