US weighs sending more troops to Eastern Europe, Baltics: Reports

Fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine have increased in recent weeks, with diplomatic efforts making little progress.

Soldiers from NATO countries attend an opening ceremony of military exercise 'Saber Strike 2015', at the Gaiziunu Training Range in Pabrade, Lithuania
Soldiers from NATO countries attend military exercises in Lithuania in 2015. [File: Mindaugas Kulbis/The Associated Press]

United States President Joe Biden is reportedly considering sending thousands more troops to NATO allies in Eastern Europe and Baltic countries as fears that Russia will soon invade Ukraine persist.

During a Saturday meeting at the presidential Camp David retreat, senior defence department officials laid out options for Biden, including sending between 1,000 to 5,000 troops to NATO countries including Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland, the New York Times newspaper reported on Sunday, citing officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The number of troops could be increased by 10 times if the situation escalates, according to the newspaper. The proposed plan also includes deploying warships and aircraft to NATO allies in the region.

The National Public Radio (NPR) broadcaster also reported on the deliberations.

The US and its European allies currently provide material support for Ukraine.

But officials told the New York Times the prospect of sending US troops to the country, which is not a NATO member, remains off the table.

Still, a decision by Washington to surge troops and equipment to the area in response to Russia’s amassing of 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine, where a pro-Russian separatist movement has been fighting in the country’s eastern flank since April 2014, would signal a distinct shift from the Biden administration’s more restrained approach.

To date, Biden has eschewed military build-ups in favour of threatening sanctions against Moscow, although both Biden and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin have said a Russian invasion of Ukraine would prompt a surge in troops to NATO allies in the region.

On Monday, the Washington Post reported that the Biden administration is also considering using a novel export control on semiconductors made with US tools or designed with US software, a move that would likely cripple Russian development and access.

Moscow, for its part, has denied it plans to invade Ukraine, but has used the situation to demand security guarantees, including that its former-Soviet neighbour would be blocked from ever joining NATO and that the alliance end its activity in Eastern Europe.

It has threatened unspecified military action if the demands, which the US and its European allies have categorically rejected, are not met.

During a meeting last week, United Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attempted to lower the temperature of the standoff, but showed little progress in their diametrically opposed demands.

Both sides said at separate news conferences they were open to more discussion, with the US preparing a written response expected to be delivered this week.

Source: Al Jazeera