Tensions Rising Between Russia and the United States

Amidst ongoing tensions arising over Russia’s actions on the border of Ukraine, the Pentagon announced that it is placing 8,500 troops on “heightened alert” for possible deployment to bolster NATO forces.

Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have been growing over several months. In 2021, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lobbied U.S. President Biden to add his country to the Atlantic alliance (NATO).

In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that NATO rule out ever accepting Ukraine as a member. The Russian foreign ministry also stated that the Alliance should promise not to threaten its national security by deploying weapons in countries bordering Russia.

Despite this warning, the U.S. has been dispatching military aid to Ukraine for over a year. In fact, this month alone, it dispatched 90 tons of aid as part of a $200 million lethal aid package approved by President Biden in late December.

In the same month, Biden stated that while U.S. troops in Ukraine were “not on the table,” he had warned Putin of “severe consequences” in the case of an attack.   

“If, in fact, he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences, severe consequences. Economic consequences like none he’s ever seen or ever have been seen.”

President Biden speaks to a reporter on Dec. 8, 2021.

The President’s stark tone was undercut however when he stated earlier this week that “minor incursions” would result in less-severe penalties. This statement drew ire from Ukrainian President Zelensky who told CNN, “This remark potentially gives the green light to Putin to enter Ukraine at his pleasure. Putin senses weakness.”

Zelensky is understandably on edge, as Russia has dispatched approximately 100,000 troops to the Russian-Ukraine border.

In response to the ongoing conflict, on Monday, Jan. 24, NATO announced it was placing forces on standby in Eastern Europe. A few hours later, the U.S. showed its support by placing 8,500 of its troops on “heightened alert” for possible deployment to bolster NATO forces if necessary.

Press Secretary John Kirby at a press briefing on 01/24/22.

In a regular press briefing, Defense Department press secretary John Kirby stated that while the “Department continues to support diplomatic efforts to deescalate the situation… we must also increase readiness.”

Mr. Kirby stated that at the direction of the President, the U.S. would be honoring its commitment to NATO by heightening “the readiness of its forces at home and abroad,” so that they would be prepared to support a NATO response force (NRF) if activated.  

“In the event of NATO’s activation of the NRF or a deteriorating security environment, the United States would be in a position to rapidly deploy additional brigade combat teams, logistics, medical, aviation, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, transportation, and additional capabilities in to Europe.”

Mr. Kirby speaks in a Press Briefing on 01/24/22

Kirby explained that the majority of troops placed on high alert would serve as part of the NRF and could only be activated by NATO rather than President Biden. However, he also stated that an unspecified number of the troops could be moved by the U.S. unilaterally.

Mr. Kirby described the action as one “designed to reassure our NATO allies.” He then underscored that troops on high alert did not equate to a decision to deploy, and he stated that updates would continue over the next several days as the U.S. stays in close contact with its allies and partners.

Post by: CJ Fisher

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