Thousands more soldiers are preparing to deploy to Eastern Europe as Russia-Ukraine tensions continue, the Pentagon announced Friday.
Three thousand members of the 82nd Airborne Division would join 3,000 troops already mobilized to Poland, Germany and Romania.
“This second tranche of Airborne soldiers will join in Poland the first tranche of 1,700 soldiers and key enablers that Secretary Austin ordered there on February 2nd,” according to a statement from a senior defense official. “Nearly two-thirds of this first tranche has already arrived.”
Another 300 members of the XVIII Airborne Corps headed to Germany this week, while 1,000 members of the Germany-based 2nd Cavalry Regiment mobilized to Romania.
The “additional personnel comprise a highly mobile and flexible force, capable of multiple missions,” according to the statement. “They are being deployed to reassure our NATO allies, deter any potential aggression against NATO’s eastern flank, train with host-nation forces, and contribute to a wide range of contingencies.”
These troops are in addition to thousands put on heightened alert to deploy last month, who would be joining the 40,000-troop, international NATO Response Force, should it be activated.
“These additional deployments are temporary in nature, meant to supplement for a brief time the more than 80,000 U.S. troops already in Europe on rotational and permanent orders,” the statement said.
The Pentagon’s announcement came as National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan addressed Americans from the White House, urging any Americans still in Ukraine to make arrangements to leave.
“There is no prospect of a U.S. military evacuation in the event of a Russian invasion … The president will not be putting the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk by sending them into a war zone to rescue people who could have left now but chose not to,” he said.
White House officials believe that an invasion “could begin any day now,” Sullivan said.
While the U.S. is sounding the alarm, officials in Kyiv say Russia is not yet ready to launch a “massive” attack, a Ukrainian military official told Military Times.
“Besides increasing the number of [battalion tactical groups] around Ukraine and continuing keeping diplomatic and political pressure on, nothing has changed,” said the official, speaking anonymously to provide an assessment of the situation.
He cited a combination of weather not conducive to armor vehicle movements, ongoing U.S. and allied diplomacy, regional military movements, internal Russian dissent and fear of a wider conflict as reasons.
Troops in Poland may be tasked with receiving evacuees, however, Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday.
“I can’t rule out the fact that these soldiers could be used to some degree with evacuation assistance on the other side of that border, and certainly they’re going to be prepared to do that,” he said.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.