Pentagon: No Final Decision to Deploy US Troops to Ukraine But 8,500 Soldiers on 'Heightened Alert'
19:42 GMT 24.01.2022 (Updated: 21:21 GMT 24.01.2022)
The United States has increased the number of troops on a "heightened preparedness to deploy" to Ukraine should the situation warrant it, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby has revealed.
The Pentagon spokesperson revealed during a Monday press briefing that 8,500 troops stationed in the United States have been placed on high alert and are being prepared for deployment to Ukraine, in case the need arises.
The official later added that the US is prepared to deploy troops to Europe within five days, should they be called upon.
Forces already stationed in Europe may also be readied for deployment to other NATO allies in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States.
"This is about getting troops ready... and to make sure we're bolstering and staying unified with the [NATO] alliance.... no deployment orders have been given," Kirby told reporters.
Kirby added, "The bulk would be ground forces…not ruling out intra-theater moves."
The majority of the forces will be for a potential NATO response force, according to Kirby, who also indicated that discussions with NATO allies have emerged that additional forces could be prepared. However, no figures were given.
Kirby further relayed to reporters that "it would be irresponsible" if the US didn't have troops at the ready amid tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
When asked why the Pentagon was doing this now, Kirby said, "It is very clear the Russians have no intensions of deescalating."
Kirby explained what would prompt the US to deploy troops.
"We're mindful of things that the Russians could do that would potentially give us indications of some sort of imminent incursion," Kirby said at the press briefing. "We're not there yet but we're watching for those indicators very closely."
He also added that an activation of the NATO response force would only be done so at the direction of the NATO alliance. "That’s a NATO decision," he underscored
The US has yet to decide on withdrawing US military trainers stationed in Ukraine, with Kirby explaining the situation is continuously being analyzed.
Amid Kirby's briefing, the US Department of State released a concurrent statement that they are open to additional in-person engagements with Russia, should they be useful. "We are open to additional engagement, in-person engagements, should it prove useful, if we think it could be constructive, if we think it should be the next element as we pursue the path of dialogue and diplomacy," department spokesperson Ned Price said during a separate briefing.
The latest developments unfolded after the State Department on Sunday ordered the withdrawal of all family members of staff at the US Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine. Additionally, the weekend also saw claims come out of the United Kingdom that accused Moscow of attempting to install a "pro-Russia leadership" in Ukraine.
The heightened tensions between the US and Russia stem from the US and its NATO allies believing that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is an increasing possibility, and one that has been given no supporting evidence. The US alleges that Russia has stationed over 100,000 troops along the Russia-Ukraine border with the intention to encroach on Ukrainian grounds.
Over the last several months, Russia has repeatedly rejected accusations thrown its way. Most recently, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told
the Izvestia newspaper that Ukraine is being used by the West as an "instrument of influence."
"Ukraine is perceived by the West as an instrument of influence, of carrying out its interests in the region, destabilizing the situation, endlessly accusing us [Russia]," Zakharova said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper. "So they took Ukraine as a platform for experiments, the unfortunate Ukrainian people - multinational, by the way."
The Russian Foreign Ministry had previously blasted the UK allegations as nothing more than "nonsense" claims meant to escalate already tense relations among global powers.