President Joe Biden has reportedly directed Defense Department officials to deploy 2,000 UStroops from Fort Bragg, North Carolina to positions in Poland and Germany, and to reposition a 1,000-person brigade quartered in Germany to Romania.
Last week, Mr Biden also gave roughly 8,500 soldiers orders to make ready for possibly deployment to reinforce Nato allies.
Those forces remain on standby, and Pentagon officials who spoke to the Journal reportedly said other parts of the longstanding US military presence in Europe are expected to be repositioned strategically in hopes of making Russian President Vladimir Putin think twice before moving any of the more than 100,000 soldiers he has massed on his western border into Ukrainian territory.
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement that the deployment of US troops was “a powerful signal” of America’s commitment,” and stressed that the alliance’s “defensive and proportional” deployments are meant to “send the clear message that Nato will do whatever is necessary to protect and defend all allies”.
The addition of more US forces in Eastern Europe on Wednesday was just one sign of the increasing tensions over the standoff between Moscow, Kiev and the Nato alliance.
On Wednesday, Typhoon fighters were scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland to intercept a quartet of UK-bound Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers after they flew into the UK “area of interest” but before they entered UK airspace.
“We intercepted and escorted four Russian Bear aircraft,” an RAF spokesperson said several hours after the operation.
Hours later, Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with Mr Putin by phone, and — according to 10 Downing Street — warned that any invasion of Ukraine would be a “tragic miscalculation”.
A Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement that Mr Johnson “expressed his deep concern about Russia’s current hostile activity on the Ukrainian border” and “emphasised the need to find a way forward which respects both Ukraine’s territorial integrity and right to self-defence” during his call with Mr Putin.
Mr Johnson also reiterated that Nato’s open-door policy for “all European democracies” that aspire to join the alliance “fully applies to Ukraine,” the spokesperson added.
The US troop movements and RAF intercepts came one day after the Russian leader hit out at Western countries for not heeding his demands that Nato categorically rule out Ukraine as a potential future member and roll back troop deployments in former Soviet satellites that have joined the alliance in the decades since the end of the Cold War.
Speaking at a Tuesday news conference with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, Mr Putin complained that “fundamental Russian concerns” had been “ignored” over weeks of talks.
The Russian strongman warned of a future scenario in which Ukraine joins Nato, then launches an offensive to clear Russian forces from territory illegally annexed during an earlier invasion in 2014.
“Let’s imagine Ukraine is a Nato member and starts these military operations. Are we supposed to go to war with the Nato bloc? Has anyone given that any thought? Apparently not,” he said.
In a statement made to the Russian Interfax news agency, Russian parliament foreign affairs committee deputy head Dmitry Novikov said the American troop movements would be “an absolutely destructive step” unless the reports of them were “an element of infoglut and fake news” meant for domestic American consumption.
“Not only can it complicate the situation in Ukraine and represent Nato and its leader, the US, as aggressive forces, but these actions can also be qualified as an attempt to hack the fragile negotiating process on security guarantees," Mr Novikov said. "If the US prompts the Russian Federation to give the toughest possible response by sending extra contingents, this should ultimately be more of a problem for them than for us.”
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