US May Reportedly Keep Over 100,000 Troops in Europe Amid Tensions Over Ukraine Crisis
To support NATO and deter Russia, the US has expanded its overall posture in Europe from around 60,000 troops before the current Ukraine crisis escalation to around 100,000 troops now. Of those, thousands of troops have allegedly been deployed to NATO's Response Force, which was activated for the first time in NATO history earlier this spring.
The US will keep 100,000 troops in Europe for the foreseeable future unless the tensions between Russia and Sweden and Finland or other NATO allies escalate into something bigger, CNN reported, citing a number of Washington insiders.
According to the report, the number of troops stationed in the region might rise for a short time if NATO conducts more military exercises, and the US could expand its presence in Europe if the security situation changes.
The measures were brought into discussion after NATO military chiefs met in Brussels on Thursday, per the outlet.
The announcement is believed to be expected at the June's NATO summit in Madrid, as NATO and US leaders have reportedly hinted at a more permanent change in European troop posture in reaction to Russia's special military operation in Ukraine. The 100,000-troop level has been expected to be agreed upon at the summit for some time.
Last month, Pentagon Chief Lloyd Austin warned US legislators the Ukraine conflict would alter the US military footprint in Europe.
The move is reportedly in line with what not only the defense secretary but what several other top military officers have told US legislators. As a response to the current events in Ukraine, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told members of Congress in April that he supported the establishment of permanent US outposts in Eastern Europe. But he noted, still, that US soldiers at those bases may be rotated, since Washington does not need to station soldiers there indefinitely to constitute an effective deterrent, according to the general.
The Pentagon, has recently announced over 10,000 replacement soldiers for those temporary rotations, indicating that the expanded US presence will continue for some time.
As Sweden and Finland prepare to join NATO, US officials reportedly believe that extra forces will not be required until Russia poses a direct danger to the two Nordic nations. The force posture could be reconsidered in case Russia moves its weapons closer or makes serious threats to move weaponry closer, according to the report.
Sweden and Finland have raised concerns about their security in the interim after submitting their membership applications, and have requested further security assistance from NATO allies while the process is underway. The majority of NATO countries have supported Finland and Sweden's membership applications, although Turkey has raised issues, virtually blocking their admission.
Moreover, officials told CNN there will be ongoing staff level discussions regarding Sweden's needs and how the US might help meet them, and that Washington has also engaged Finland in similar staff level discussions.
Insiders stressed the request for enhanced security needs might not result in additional US soldiers, since the US might conduct additional military drills with Sweden or Finland instead.
As of now, already thousands of US troops are stationed in Europe on temporary rotations, as additional military assets have been sent to the Eastern flank to support eight new NATO battlegroups. Additionally, US and NATO partners have allocated billions in military aid to Ukraine.