The United States on Wednesday deployed several thousand troops to bolster NATO forces in eastern Europe, as the leaders of France and Germany flagged trips to Moscow to address Western fears of an invasion of Ukraine.
With Russia refusing to pull back 100,000 troops poised on Ukraine’s borders, 1,000 US soldiers in Germany are being sent to Romania, and another 2,000 in the United States flown to Germany and Poland.
“As long as (President Vladimir Putin) is acting aggressively, we are going to make sure we reassure our NATO allies in eastern Europe that we’re there,” President Joe Biden said after the deployments were announced.
In response, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said the move would make it harder for a compromise between the two sides, calling the US deployments “destructive steps, which increase military tension and reduce scope for political decision.”
Western powers have been engaged in intense diplomatic efforts — coupled with the threat of sanctions against Putin’s inner circle — to deter what they fear to be a looming invasion of ex-Soviet Ukraine, despite strenuous denials from Moscow.
Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced Wednesday he would soon travel to Moscow to discuss the crisis, while France’s President Emmanuel Macron said a similar trip may be in the cards — depending on upcoming telephone talks with other world leaders.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby stressed that the US troop movements were to demonstrate commitment to the NATO alliance, and that no American soldiers would be sent to fight in Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.
But that is unlikely to assuage Putin, who has accused the United States and NATO of seeking to “contain” Russia by placing troops and strategic arms on its border.
“Ukraine itself is just a tool to achieve this goal,” Putin said Tuesday in his first major comments in weeks on the crisis.
Putin has demanded guarantees that Ukraine will not join NATO, and has implicitly threatened the former Soviet state with the massive military buildup.
With inputs from NDTV