Democrat President Joe Biden’s administration put thousands of U.S. soldiers on heightened alert on Monday as the situation in Eastern Europe deteriorates amid a possible invasion by Russian forces.
“I want to provide some facts on these preparations that will reinforce our commitment to NATO and to the NATO Response Force and increase our readiness,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said. “Secretary Austin has placed a range of units in the United States on a heightened preparedness to deploy, which increases our readiness to provide forces if NATO should activate the NRF or if other situations developed.
Kirby added, “All told, the number of forces that the Secretary has placed on heightened alert comes up to about 8,500 personnel.”
The development comes as Russia has amassed approximately 100,000 soldiers near the Ukrainian border and is demanding concessions from the West, including never allowing Ukraine to join NATO. NATO has indicated that what Russia is demanding are nonstarters for the organization.
The Associated Press reported:
NATO said Monday it is bolstering its “deterrence” in the Baltic Sea region. Denmark is sending a frigate and deploying F-16 warplanes to Lithuania; Spain is sending four fighter jets to Bulgaria and three ships to the Black Sea to join NATO naval forces; and France stands ready to send troops to Romania. The Netherlands also plans to send two F-35 fighter aircraft to Bulgaria from April.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that NATO’s main goal right now was to prevent military conflict in Ukraine.
“And that’s exactly why we send a very clear message to Russia that if they once again decide to use force against Ukraine, it will come with a high costs for Russia. Economic, financial, political sanction,” Stoltenberg said. “NATO Allies also provide support to Ukraine. Ukraine has of course the right to self-defense as every sovereign nation has. And NATO Allies help them to uphold that right to self-defense with the support Allies provided to Ukraine.”
The news comes as the Biden administration ordered the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine to immediately leave the country over the weekend.
“The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice. Demonstrations, which have turned violent at times, regularly occur throughout Ukraine, including in Kyiv,” the U.S. State Department said. “Do not travel to Ukraine due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19. Exercise increased caution in Ukraine due to crime and civil unrest. Some areas have increased risk.”
A source close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told BuzzFeed News on Monday that Zelensky “does not think there’s any remotely imminent threat to Kyiv.”
“The fact that the US was the first one to announce this is extremely disappointing and quite frankly these Americans are safer in Kyiv than they are in Los Angeles … or any other crime-ridden city in the US,” the source said. “On the one hand, [Washington tells Ukraine] how we should democratize. We stand with you. It’s your right to determine to join the West. We will stand with you against Russian aggression. Then Russia turns up the temperature and they’re the first to leave.”
The source said that Zelensky views Biden’s panicky response as “utterly ridiculous” and a sign of “U.S. inconsistency.”
This report has been updated to include additional information.