US Orders 3,000 Troops to Bolster European Allies in Russia-Ukraine Crisis

WASHINGTON — President Biden is directing the Pentagon to deploy more than 3,000 American troops to bolster the defense of European allies in the first major movement of US forces in Russia’s military standoff with Ukraine, US officials said.

Mr. Biden is sending roughly 2,000 troops from Fort Bragg, NC, to Poland and Germany this week and repositioning about 1,000 troops that are part of a Germany-based infantry Stryker squadron to Romania, on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s eastern flank closest to Russia, the officials said.

In addition, the Pentagon expects to make other moves of forces inside Europe, and has ordered several thousand more troops to be on standby to deploy, beyond the 8,500 troops given similar orders last week, officials said.


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In all, the moves are intended to try to deter Russia from attacking Ukraine and avert war in Eastern Europe, officials said. Along with these moves, the Biden administration is trying to find a diplomatic solution, readying a barrage of economic sanctions should Russia attack and authorizing the transfer of some weapons and other equipment to Ukraine.

Mr. Biden signed off on the military proposals after meeting Tuesday with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, the officials said. Mr. Austin discussed the deployments with his counterparts in Romania, Germany and Poland in the past week.

While a few hundred American military trainers and special operations forces are inside Ukraine, none of the new forces have been authorized to enter the country, and all of the deployments are expected to be temporary, officials said.

The forces are expected to deploy in the next few days, officials said, declining to provide details on their specific missions.

The US, NATO and Russia are caught in a diplomatic standoff over Moscow’s buildup of troops at the border with Ukraine. WSJ looks at what Russia wants and how Ukraine and its allies are preparing for a potential crisis. Photo: Andriy Dubchak / Associated Press

“They are trained and equipped for a variety of missions during this period of elevated risk,” said a senior defense official. The deployments also are “meant to deter the threat against the alliance. We are literally willing to put skin in the game. ”

Some of the new forces could be used in the event the US military was called upon to help evacuate the roughly 30,000 Americans now living in Ukraine, the official said. Should that be needed, the official said, the troops are unlikely to be sent inside Ukraine to do so and instead would facilitate an evacuation operation by land along the Ukrainian border.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the US of trying to goad Moscow into war even as he hoped “dialogue will be continued.” Biden administration officials have said they do not think Mr. Putin has made a decision whether to invade, though he could do so in the next few weeks.

Last week, Mr. Austin placed at least 8,500 U.S. troops on “prepare-to-deploy orders,” which requires troops to be ready to deploy quickly, in some instances, within hours of being activated.

Since then, that figure has increased by several thousand more troops, officials said. Some of the troops that are being activated to Europe this week are being drawn from that larger number of troops already identified on standby, officials said.

The preponderance of those forces on standby would contribute to a NATO response force that is being assembled in case Mr. Putin moves ahead with plans to attack Ukraine.

Other American forces, already stationed in Eastern Europe, could be repositioned to NATO nations as part of the overall response to the crisis which US officials say Mr. Putin has created by conducting a military buildup on three sides of Ukraine.

Russia has denied plans to invade, though said it may have to resort to military measures if its demands that Ukraine not be allowed to join NATO and that the alliance pull back from Eastern Europe aren’t heeded.

Mr. Biden said over the weekend that some American forces could be put on alert to deploy within Eastern Europe, and the Pentagon said on Monday that those deployments were still under consideration. Mr. Biden has said US forces would not defend Ukraine, but he has promised to support allies.

If the troops on standby are activated, they would deploy to NATO nations in Eastern Europe such as Lithuania, in logistics, medical, aviation, transportation and other areas, according to defense officials. The Pentagon has said it could also deploy troops to support intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, with drones.

The US decision to ready forces is among a series of military adjustments across the alliance. The Netherlands, Spain, Denmark are among the NATO countries that began positioning ships and aircraft in a push to bolster Europe’s eastern flank attack. Canada announced it would extend its training program in Ukraine, using as many as 400 troops, for another three years.

Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, is moving troops and surface-to-air missile systems into Belarus, which borders Ukraine and several NATO members, and has also moved several ships near Ukraine’s shores in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Write to Gordon Lubold at and Nancy A. Youssef at

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