An additional 3,000 U.S. troops will be deploying to Poland amid rising tensions over Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine, the Pentagon announced on Friday.
At the direction of President Joe Biden, on Friday Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “ordered to Poland the remaining 3,000 soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Infantry Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Bragg, N.C.,” a senior defense official said in a statement:
“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. Nearly two-thirds of this first tranche has already arrived. They are commanded by Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue.
The 300 members of the 18th Airborne Corps headquarters element that the Secretary ordered to Germany have also arrived in-country. The 18th Airborne Corps and this headquarters element is led by Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla.”
The news that an additional wave of soldiers would be deployed was first reported by Reuters, and comes as Russia continues to amass troops near Ukraine, and conducts military exercises in the Black Sea and in Belarus.
“All told, these 5,000 additional personnel comprise a highly mobile and flexible force, capable of multiple missions,” reads 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. They will report to Gen. Tod Wolters, Commander, U.S. European Command.”
The deployments mentioned in the statement are in addition to the roughly 8,500 troops already on standby orders in the event they are called upon to deploy to the region.
According to the statement, “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 announcement of the fresh troop deployment came just hours after White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan stated there was a “distinct possibility” that Russia would invade Ukraine in a “very swift time frame” and urged American citizens to leave the country “immediately.”
“There will be no opportunity to leave and no prospect of a U.S. military evacuation in the event of a rush invasion,” Sullivan told reporters on Friday.
Russia has reportedly amassed more than 130,000 troops close to the Ukrainian border, with U.S. officials telling BBC News that the buildup represents roughly 70% of the military capability required for a full invasion of the country.
That soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division have been tagged to supply troops for the mission is nothing new for the Fort Bragg unit, which makes up the bulk of the military’s Immediate Response Force and is capable of deploying soldiers globally on short notice.
On Saturday, Defense Secretary Austin ordered that 160 Florida National Guardsmen, who deployed to Ukraine in November to train and advise local forces, be moved out of the country and repositioned elsewhere in the country.“ The Secretary made this decision out of an abundance of caution — with the safety and security of our personnel foremost in mind — and informed by the State Department’s guidance on U.S. personnel in Ukraine,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement. “This repositioning does not signify a change in our determination to support Ukraine’s Armed Forces, but will provide flexibility in assuring allies and deterring aggression,” Kirby added.
Update: This article has been updated with additional information about U.S. troop deployments from Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.
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