How many US troops could help Ukraine and where are they stationed?

Biden has maintained that the US military will not directly enter the conflict between Russia and Ukraine

Megan Sheets
Thursday 24 February 2022 16:35
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Ukrainians protest outside Downing Street amid Russian invasion

President Joe Biden is reportedly considering moving American troops in Europe further east in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine after insisting the US military would not directly enter the conflict.

A senior US official disclosed the alleged considerations to CNN on Thursday morning as Mr Biden convened a meeting of the National Security Council to discuss developments in the crisis.

The US currently has roughly 90,000 troops on the continent, with Mr Biden steadily increasing the concentration in Eastern Europe in recent weeks as Russia ramped up its presence at the Ukrainian border.

Over the past month, the president has deployed around 5,000 US-based troops to Europe, the majority to Germany – and more than doubled the number of troops in Poland and Romania to around 9,000 and 2,000, respectively.

This week, after Russia announced it would not withdraw forces deployed to Belarus for purported military exercises, Mr Biden said he had authorised “additional movements of US forces and equipment already stationed in Europe” to shore up defences in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. All three Baltic states are – like Ukraine – former Soviet republics, but unlike Ukraine, are Nato members.

The movements included:

  • An infantry battalion task force of about 800 service members from Italy to the Baltics
  • Up to eight F-35 fighter jets from Germany to bases “along Nato’s eastern flank”
  • 20 AH-64 Apache helicopters from Germany to the Baltics
  • 12 helicopters from Greece to Poland

However, the president maintained his months-long insistence that American troops will not enter Ukraine directly.

Announcing the latest deployments on Tuesday, he said: “These are totally defensive moves on our part.

“We have no intention of fighting Russia. We want to send an unmistakable message that the United States together with our allies will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made to NATO.”

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby echoed the president’s assertion, calling the most recent moves “short term, temporary, rotational redeployments”.

“Right now, we’re focused on reassuring the allies,” Mr Kirby said Wednesday.  “And we’re going to be in constant contact with them and consultation about what that looks like and how you do that, given the current tensions on the continent.

“It’s too early to tell whether any of this is going to lead to some other longer term posture changes, we’re just not at that point right now.”

Forty-three lawmakers responded to the announcement on Tuesday in a letter urging Mr Biden to seek congressional approval before sending troops into Ukrain.

The letter marked a rare show of unity as signatories included Democratic Reps Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush and Ilhan Omar, and Trump-allied GOP representatives Matt Gaetz and Paul Gosar.

“To date, you have rejected calls to station US armed forces in Ukraine, stating such an effort is ‘not on the table,”’ it read.

“However, if the ongoing situation compels you to introduce the brave men and women of our military into Ukraine, their lives would inherently be put at risk if Russia chooses to invade.”

“Therefore, we ask that your decisions comport with the Constitution and our nation’s laws by consulting with Congress to receive authorisation before any such deployment.”

The letter added that in the event that US troops are sought to be deployed in Ukraine, “Congress stands ready to deliberate over the potentially monumental implications of such scenarios.”

“The American people, through their representatives in Congress, deserve to have a say before U.S. troops are placed in harm’s way or the US becomes involved in yet another foreign conflict,” it concluded.

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