The U.S. military on Monday put about 8,500 troops on alert to be ready to deploy to Europe if needed, potentially on very short notice, in the latest effort to reassure jittery NATO allies in the face of a Russian military buildup near Ukraine.
Although the decision did not bolster U.S. support to Ukraine, which is not part of the NATO alliance, it underscored the growing NATO preparations for what Washington and Kyiv believe are Russian moves to mass its forces for a potential invasion of Ukraine.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the bulk of the 8,500 U.S. troops were being notified of ready-to-deploy orders so they could fill in the ranks of a NATO rapid response force, should the alliance call them up for duty.
But Kirby stressed that Austin also wanted an unspecified number of troops “to be ready for any other contingencies as well.”
“What’s happening now is getting them ready on a shorter tether,” Kirby told a news briefing.