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US Sending 2,000 More Troops to Europe to Bolster NATO's Eastern Flank

A Ukrainian border guard patrols the border with Russia not far from Hoptivka village, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Feb. 2, 2022.
A Ukrainian border guard patrols the border with Russia not far from Hoptivka village, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Feb. 2, 2022.

The U.S. said Wednesday it is dispatching 2,000 more troops to Europe, most of them to Poland, and moving 1,000 troops from Germany to Romania to bolster NATO's eastern flank countries in the face of Russia's continued military buildup along its border with Ukraine.

The additional U.S. troops, part of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, are "not going to fight in Ukraine" in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters. Rather, he said, they are intended as an "unmistakable signal that we stand with NATO" in protecting the 30 countries in the West's key military alliance.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg declared, “This is a powerful signal of U.S. commitment.”

Kirby said the new deployment is not permanent, but that the U.S. could dispatch more troops as warranted. He said the deployment is separate from the 8,500 U.S. troops placed on heightened alert last week for possibly being dispatched to Europe.

The Defense Department spokesman said the U.S. still does not believe Russian President Vladimir Putin has "made a decision on invading Ukraine."

But Kirby said the Russian leader is "showing no signs of being willing to de-escalate" and has continued to add troops in Russian-aligned Belarus to Ukraine's north and along Russia's border with eastern Ukraine.

Kirby said the U.S. is "prepared for a range of contingencies" involving Putin's actions toward Ukraine. The spokesman said the new deployment is "not the sum total of the deterrence."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to speak by telephone with Putin Wednesday about the stalemated crisis.

Johnson said Tuesday during a visit to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, that Russia's massing of more than 100,000 troops near the border is "perhaps the biggest demonstration of hostility towards Ukraine in our lifetimes."

Johnson expressed support for Ukraine's right to self-determination and said the preparation of economic sanctions by Western allies to levy against Russia should it invade Ukraine is not a "show of hostility towards Russia," but rather a demonstration of support for Ukraine.

"It is vital that Russia steps back and chooses a path of diplomacy, and I believe that is still possible," Johnson said.

The diplomatic push is set to continue Thursday as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Erdogan's chief adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, held talks Tuesday with U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, with an NSC statement saying the two "underscored their shared commitment to both ongoing diplomacy and joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine."

Kyiv Residents Anxious Over Possible Russian Invasion
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Putin said Tuesday the United States and its allies have ignored Russia's top security demands that they deny Ukraine membership in the NATO military alliance and pull back their weaponry near Russia, while the U.S. reiterated its "commitment" to Ukraine and its territorial integrity.

Putin, in his first public comments on the standoff with the West over Ukraine in more than a month, said at a news conference that the Kremlin was still studying the U.S. and NATO response to Russian security demands received last week.

The West has refused to rule out Ukraine membership in NATO, saying no outside country has veto power over who belongs in the U.S.-led military alliance formed after World War II.

"It's already clear now ... that fundamental Russian concerns were ignored," Putin told reporters.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba addressed the conflict in a broader context at a news conference Wednesday, saying, “I'm confident that Russia's war on Ukraine and wider Europe will ultimately end when two fundamental issues are resolved. First, the West should turn from reactive to proactive strategies when dealing with Russia.”

He added, “Ambiguity on Ukraine's role as an indivisible part of the West has to be put to an end. The Ukrainian people chose this course and defended it at a high price.”

“We are historically, politically and culturally a part of the West,” Kuleba said. “It is time to end harmful ambiguity which serves as a temptation for the Kremlin to continue its attempts to undermine Ukraine or reverse its course against the will of the Ukrainian people.”