US puts 8,500 troops on high alert in confrontation with Russia

By Lorne Cook | Related press

BRUSSELS – The Pentagon said on Monday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has put up to 8,500 troops on high alert, so they will be ready to deploy if needed to reassure NATO allies in the face of confrontation. face the continued Russian aggression on the Ukrainian border.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said no final decision had been made on the deployment. He said the order was to ensure that the US was ready to respond if NATO decided to deploy a response force.

“This is about reassurance to our NATO allies,” Kirby said.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. The AP’s previous story follows.

BRUSSELS – Tensions spiked on Monday between Russia and the West over fears that Moscow is planning an invasion of Ukraine, with NATO charting potential troop and ship deployments, and Britain saying it would withdraw some homes Diplomats away from Kyiv and Ireland denounced Russia’s upcoming war games off the country’s coast as unwelcome.

The Western alliance’s statement summarizes the moves announced by the member states, but restating them under the NATO banner seems to show the bloc’s resolve. It was just one of a series of announcements signaling the West’s increased rhetoric in the information war that has brought Ukraine to a standstill.

Russia has sent some 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s border, demanding that NATO promise never to allow Ukraine to join and other actions, such as the alliance’s stationing of troops in former Soviet bloc countries, must be approved. limit. Some of these, like any pledge to ban Ukraine forever, are not NATO bases – creating a seemingly intractable impasse that many fear could only end in war. painting.

Russia denies it is planning an invasion and says the Western accusations are just a cover for planned NATO provocations. Recent days have seen high-interest diplomacy fail to achieve any breakthrough and maneuver for either side.

On Monday, NATO said it was strengthening its “deterrence capabilities” in the Baltic Sea region. Denmark is sending a frigate and deploying F-16 fighter jets to Lithuania; Spain sent 4 fighter jets to Bulgaria and 3 ships to the Black Sea to join NATO naval forces; and France is ready to send troops to Romania. The Netherlands also plans to send two F-35 fighter jets to Bulgaria from April.

NATO will “take all necessary measures to defend and defend all allies,” said Secretary General jens Stoltenberg. “We will always respond to any deterioration of our security environment, including by strengthening our collective defenses.”

In Washington, Pentagon leaders proposed a range of options for President Joe Biden to increase the US military presence in Eastern Europe and the Baltics as a demonstration of US commitment, according to two officials. anonymous organization to discuss internal plans.

One of the officials said there is no specific deployment proposal yet, but that an unspecified number of US military units have been notified planning for that possibility. Another official said on Sunday there was a possibility that reinforcements could be sent from US bases, in addition to troop movements in Europe, but for now the White House and the Pentagon are just “exploring other options.” option”.

“We’ve always said we’re going to fortify our allies on the eastern flank and those conversations and discussions are definitely part of what our concerns are,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. Our national security officer has been in discussions with his counterpart for several weeks now,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Later Monday, Biden will hold a video call with several European leaders about Russia’s military build-up and potential responses to an invasion, the White House said.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said NATO and the US were behind the escalating tensions, not Russia.

“All of this is happening not because of what we, Russia, are doing. This is happening because of what NATO, the US is doing,” Peskov told reporters.

NATO’s announcement comes as European Union foreign ministers seek to show fresh unity in support of Ukraine, and raise split concerns over how best to confront the conflict. any Russian aggression.

In a statement, the ministers said the EU had stepped up sanctions preparations and they warned that “any further Russian military action against Ukraine will have major consequences and serious costs.”

In addition, the EU also pledged to increase financial support for Ukraine, pledging to push through a special package worth 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) for loans and grants. as soon as possible.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday and said the US would give Russia a written response to Moscow’s proposals this week, offering some hope. that any invasion could be delayed for at least a few more days.

The West is anxiously monitoring Russian troop movements and war games in Belarus for any signs of an invasion. Russia has invaded Ukraine once, annexing the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It also supports pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists fighting the Kyiv government in the country’s eastern region known as the Donbass. About 14,000 people were killed in the conflict.

When asked if the EU would follow the US move and ask the families of European embassy staff in Ukraine to leave, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “We will do not do the same”.

Britain said it was withdrawing some diplomats and dependents from the Kyiv Embassy.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said an invasion was not inevitable, but “intelligence is rather dismal.” He added that “I think that feeling can still prevail.”

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Oleg Nikolenko, said the US decision was “a step too early” and a sign of “excessive caution”. He said that Russia is spreading panic among Ukrainians and foreigners in order to destabilize Ukraine.

Germany has not issued a similar order, with Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stressing that “we must not contribute to further anxiety.”

At the EU meeting, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said he would inform his counterparts of Russia’s planned war games 240 kilometers (150 miles) to the east. southwest Ireland – in international waters but within Ireland’s exclusive economic zone.

“This is not the time for increased military activity and tension in light of what is happening with and in Ukraine.” he say. “The fact that they are choosing to do it on the western border, if you will, of the EU, off the coast of Ireland, is something that, in our view, is simply not welcome.”

NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have said they plan to send US-made anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, a move endorsed by Washington.

But questions have been raised about EU unity. Diverse political, business and energy interests have long divided the 27-nation bloc in its approach to Moscow. About 40% of EU natural gas imports come from Russia, much of which is supplied via pipelines across Ukraine, and many are cynical about being cut off from that supply in the winter.

Diplomats and officials say tough sanctions are being put on the EU’s executive body, the European Commission. They were reluctant to detail the measures but said they would arrive within days of any attacks.

In talks with European allies throughout the crisis, administration officials say they remain aware that Europe’s trade, energy and financial links with Russia make more sense. much more than the US.

A senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions said that when they approached the design of potential sanctions, they kept “in our minds” “need to bear responsibility” for the possible effect on Europe and the global economies.

But the White House also suggested that it approached negotiations with Russia with a measure of trust and support from European allies it did not have prior to the annexation of Crimea.

Russia’s brittle economy relies too heavily on energy exports. President Vladimir Putin has made clear his ambition to diversify the economy, especially in areas such as defense and civil aviation, but the US and its European allies have a dominant position in manufacturing. and exports of technologies, software and equipment important to Russia in those fields.

Throughout the negotiations, European officials emphasized having a “legitimate analysis and understanding of… what would really hurt Russia” and what the “mortgage costs” might be. according to a second senior administration official.

Associated Press writers Yuras Karmanau in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dasha Litvinova in Moscow, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Aritz Parra in Madrid, Jill Lawless in London, Robert Burns and Aamer Madhani in Washington, Mike Corder in The Hague and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed . US puts 8,500 troops on high alert in confrontation with Russia

Huynh Nguyen

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