US puts 8,500 troops on heightened alert amid Russia tension

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WASHINGTON (AP) — At President Joe Biden’s direction, the Pentagon is putting about 8,500 U.S.-based troops on heightened alert for potential deployment to Europe to reassure allies amid rising fears of a possible Russian military move on Ukraine.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday no final decisions had been made on deployments, which he said would happen only if the NATO alliance decides to activate a rapid-response force “or if other situations develop” in connection with tensions over Russia’s military buildup along Ukraine’s borders.

“What this is about is reassurance to our NATO allies,” Kirby said, adding that no troops are intended for deployment to Ukraine itself.

Kirby said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recommended to Biden that about 8,500 troops be ordered to prepare for potential deployment to Europe in light of signs that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not de-escalating his military pressure on Ukraine. Kirby said he was not prepared to identify the U.S.-based units because they were still being notified.

“We’ve always said we would reinforce our allies on the eastern flank, and those conversations and discussions have certainly been part of what our national security officials have been discussing with their counterparts now for several weeks,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

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