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President Joe Biden has pledged to send troops to NATO countries "in the near term." Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said Russian President Vladimir Putin has a "complete range of military options."
US President Joe Biden said Friday he will soon send a small number of US troops to bolster the NATO presence in Eastern Europe, amid concerns around a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The United States and other Western nations have voiced concern over the buildup of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, claiming that Russia is planning an incursion. Russia has insisted it does not plan to invade Ukraine and has demanded security guarantees from NATO, including a promise that Ukraine will not join the military alliance.
"I'll be moving US troops to Eastern Europe and the NATO countries in the near term. Not a lot," Biden told reporters.
This week, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said 8,500 troops were on "heightened alert" for possible deployment to assist NATO.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but the US fears spillover into neighboring NATO countries if Russia does attack Ukraine.
In a press conference last week, Biden said the US would increase troop presence in the region in the event of a Russian invasion.
"We're going to actually increase troop presence in Poland, in Romania, etc. if, in fact, [Putin] moves [troops into Ukraine]," Biden said. "They are part of NATO."
Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Friday that the buildup of Russian forces near Ukraine's border has reached the point where Russian President Vladimir Putin has a complete range of military options.
"While we don't believe that President Putin has made a final decision to use these forces against Ukraine, he clearly now has the capability," Austin said at a Pentagon news conference.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the counterproposals sent by the United States were better than those sent by NATO
Austin said Putin could use any portion of his force to seize Ukrainian cities and "significant territories" or to carry out "coercive acts or provocative political acts," like the recognition of eastern Ukraine's pro-Russia breakaway states.
Earlier this week, the US and NATO formally rejected Russian demands around security guarantees, while sending counterproposals to Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the counterproposals sent by the United States were better than those sent by NATO.
sdi/sms (AP, AFP)