Attack helicopters, F-35, US troops in Europe moving east to deter Russia
The US military is sending reinforcements to the Baltic states and Poland to bolster NATO’s eastern flank as Ukraine prepares for a massive Russian attack.
Up to 190,000 Russian troops have surrounded Ukraine, including Russian forces that have deployed to Belarus, nominally for military exercises. A contingent of Russian troops invaded eastern Ukraine overnight after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of two breakaway provinces: Donetsk and Lugansk.
“Today, in response to Russia’s admission that it will not withdraw its forces from Belarus, I authorized additional movements of American forces and equipment already stationed in Europe, to reinforce our Baltic allies. : Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.”
Biden stressed that the deployment of US forces to the Baltic states and Poland is “a defensive decision on our part” and that the US has “no intention of fighting Russia”.
U.S. troops headed east include about 800 troops in an infantry battalion task force, which are deploying from Italy, a senior defense official said Tuesday. Although the Pentagon has not identified which unit these troops are assigned to, the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade has troops based in Vicenza, Italy.
The U.S. military is also switching to F-35 Joint Strike Fighters from Germany to “several operating sites along NATO’s eastern flank,” the senior defense official said. Brian Everstine, Pentagon editor for “Aviation Week”, tweeted that the F-35As were from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, which is currently at Spangdahlem Air Force Base, Germany.
In addition to those planes, the US military is moving a battalion of 20 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters from Germany to the Baltic region and another 12 Apaches from Greece to Poland, the top defense official said. . All troops and aircraft should be in place later this week.
In recent weeks, about 4,700 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division have deployed to Poland, where they may be tasked with helping evacuate Americans crossing into Ukraine. Another 300 soldiers from the 18th Airborne Corps were sent to Germany.
The army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment has also moved around 1,000 troops from Germany to Romania, which borders Moldova, where Russia is backing a separatist movement in the Transnistrian region. On February 14, the State Department warned Americans not to travel to Moldova, citing “unusual and concerning Russian military activity around Ukraine and the unresolved conflict between the separatist region of Transnistria and the government central.
Separately, NBC reported that the United States would send about 200 soldiers and Stryker combat vehicles to Hungary for training and Reuters reported that another 150 American soldiers are deployed in Bulgaria for military exercises.
If NATO activates its response force, more US military personnel would likely deploy to Eastern Europe. On Tuesday, the reaction force was on heightened alert but had not yet been activated, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference.
Stoltenberg also said Russia continues to prepare for a full-scale attack on Ukraine by moving its forces from the garrison to the attack position.
“NATO’s primary responsibility is to ensure that there is no aggression against NATO allied countries,” Stoltenberg said. “Thus, we have already increased our presence in the eastern part of the alliance. And we are ready to further increase our presence in the eastern part of the alliance, if necessary.