In an effort to bolster defensive positions in the Baltic region, President Biden has moved military reinforcements to a number of Baltic states and Poland to defend NATO’s eastern flank in the case that Russia decides to invade Ukraine fully. This report comes after Russia had moved in troops into the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, Ukrainian regions which are occupied by Russian-backed separatists.

“Today, in response to Russia’s admission that it will not withdraw its forces from Belarus, I have authorized additional movement of US forces and equipment already stationed in Europe to strengthen our Baltic allies: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania,” said Biden.

This move by Biden was a purely defensive response to further escalations with the Russian military, who have since sent “peacekeepers” into Donetsk and Luhansk. In a speech announcing the US economic and fiscal sanctions on Russia, he also announced that he would be providing more defensive assistance to Ukraine. He intends to do this by deploying US forces already based in Europe to Baltic countries such as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank.

“We have no intention of fighting Russia. We want to send an unmistakable message though — that the United States, together with our allies, will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made to NATO,” said Biden. This is in line with information obtained by the Military Times from a senior Biden administration official, stating “but I have nothing to add to what the president already said, which is that he had no intention of sending American forces to fight inside Ukraine,” said the unnamed US official. He further stated that the movement of troops and fighter jets was purely to defend NATO territory, which may imply that he has no intentions of defending Ukraine itself as the country is not part of NATO.

According to the Department of Defense in a statement dated February 22, Biden had directed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III to move said forces within the US European Command led by Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters to various NATO allies.

The 6,000 US troops, most of which are paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division stationed in US-allied countries such as Germany, Poland, and Hungary, are to be joined by an additional 800 infantry. These soldiers are likely from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Italy and will be deployed to Poland and the Baltic states.

An AH-64 Apache helicopter with Task Force Viper, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, during a Apache Gunnery at Baumholder Military Training Area, 2018 (DVIDS). Source:
An AH-64 Apache helicopter with Task Force Viper, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, during an Apache Gunnery at Baumholder Military Training Area, 2018 (DVIDS)

Up to 8 additional F-35A Lightning II fighter jets stationed in Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, can also be moved to NATO’s eastern flank. They will join the US Air Force’s F-15s, and F-16s deployed to Eastern Europe earlier this February. Twenty AH-64 Apache attack helicopters from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade were also deployed from Katterbach Army Airfield, Germany, to be sent to said Baltic states, with another 12 Apache helicopters from 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment stationed in Stefanovikeio Air Base, Greece flying to Poland. These aircraft will be useful not just for offensive and defensive measures but also for surveillance purposes as Belarus is quite nearby several Baltic states, which have been conducting continuous military drills with Russia.