As tensions between Ukraine and Russia heighten, thousands of US troops have been placed on heightened preparedness if needed, but the Pentagon says no decisions have been made yet to deploy them.
“Secretary Austin has placed a range of units in the United States on a heightened preparedness to deploy, which increases our readiness to provide forces if NATO should activate” the NATO National Response Force, said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.
The NATO NRF is a multinational rapid response force comprised of land, air, maritime and Special Operations Forces.
“The United States is deeply concerned about the current situation in Europe,” Kirby said. “We remain keenly focused on Russia’s unusual military activities near the Ukrainian border, including in Belarus, and consulting extensively with our transatlantic allies and partners. The department continues to support diplomatic efforts to deescalate the situation.
“Now, as the president has said, even as we continue to prioritize diplomacy and dialogue, we must also increase readiness in support of its obligations to the security and defense of NATO and the security of its citizens abroad,” he continued.
The units, which were not named, have not been given orders to deploy, but to shorten their recall timelines in case NATO activates its response force, Kirby told reporters.
“There’s not a mission, per se,” Kirby said. “This is about the secretary wanting to get ahead of the potential activation and making sure that these units have the time to prepare.”
For example, he said, some units that are already on a 10-day timeline would prep themselves to be ready in five days. None of the units on heightened alert are based in Europe, Kirby said.
The U.S. will not deploy its forces unless the NRF is activated, Kirby said.
“This is about placing units on a heightened alert,” he said. “It does not mean that they’re going to be jumping on gray tails tomorrow and leaving.”
Senior administration officials said that President Joe Biden was consulting with allies on possible deployments “to reinforce our NATO eastern flank allies.”
But White House press secretary Jen Psaki emphasized that no final decisions have yet been made on a military response to Russian aggression in the region.