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President Joe Biden issued an order on Thursday that will allow the Pentagon to call up to 3,000 military reservists for deployment to Europe.
The order released by the White House says the president determined it is “necessary to augment” U.S. forces — which The Washington Post reported as about 80,000 troops — who are on a mission to deter further Russian aggression just days after the war in Ukraine surpassed the 500-day mark.
Up to 450 of the troops authorized for activation under Biden’s order can be pulled from the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) — which includes service members who are nearing the end of their enlistment contracts and are no longer required to attend regular drills and training.
“These authorities will enable the department to better support and sustain its enhanced presence and level of operations,” said Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, the director for operations on the Joint Staff.
He also said the move “reaffirms the unwavering support and commitment to the defense of NATO’s eastern flank in wake of Russia’s illegal and unprovoked war on Ukraine.”
In addition, U.S. European Command’s Operation Atlantic Resolve will be designated as a “contingency operation,” Simm said, which “benefits troops and families with increases in authorities, entitlements and access to reserve component forces and personnel.”
Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said Biden’s new order unlocks the ability to call on National Guard or reserve forces to support Operation Atlantic Resolve and have them “be entitled to the same kind of benefits as their active duty counterparts.”
The Biden administration previously ordered extra service members to Eastern Europe just before Russia invaded Ukraine in February of last year.
Biden insisted at the outset of the conflict that he would not send troops into Ukraine to fight Russian forces, but the United States has sent tens of billions of dollars in aid to help with the defensive effort.
The president’s order on Thursday comes shortly after a NATO summit in Vilnius, where Biden said the U.S. and its allies are “doing everything we can” to support Ukraine. However, Biden told CNN that the war in Ukraine needs to end before Ukraine could be brought into the alliance.
The U.S. most recently sent cluster bombs to Ukraine, which the Pentagon said on Thursday had just arrived in the country. Biden said he chose to give Ukraine these munitions, which are banned by more than 100 countries over concerns about the danger they pose to civilians, because the defenders are running out of ammunition.
“The main thing is they either have the weapons to stop the Russians now from their — keeping them from stopping the Ukrainian offensive through these areas, or they don’t. And I think they needed them,” Biden told CNN.