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.

“These additional personnel are being repositioned to reassure our NATO allies, deter any potential aggression against NATO member states, and train with host-nation forces,” said the Department of Defense. They also added that the military movements are temporary as they are defensive mechanisms in the case of further Russian expansion into NATO territories.

Overall, there are currently 90,000 US service members based in Europe. Before this announcement, it can be recalled that 8,500 US service members were ordered to be on heightened alert if NATO were to deploy its Rapid Reaction Force. The US Navy also assembled the largest deployment of Navy ships in the Mediterranean in recent history as US Atlantic Fleet destroyers, namely USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), USS Mitscher (DDG 57), USS The Sullivans (DDG-68), and USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) joined the USS Harry S. Truman and its striker group comprised of the USS Bainbridge (DDG- 96), USS Cole (DDG-67), USS Gravely (DDG-107), the USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109), and the missile destroyer USS San Jacinto (CG-56). A number of fighter jets comprised of F-15s and F-16s were sent to Estonia, Romania, and Poland during the course of the past month.

These new movements in US military troops and aircraft are coupled with a unified response from the US and a number of Western allies, imposing new economic and fiscal sanctions as a response to Putin’s aggression in the region.

Military personnel from the 82nd Airborne Division and 18th Airborne Corps board a C-17 transport plane for deployment to Eastern Europe at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on February 3, 2022 (Reuters via France 24). Source:
Military personnel from the 82nd Airborne Division and 18th Airborne Corps board a C-17 transport plane for deployment to Eastern Europe at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on February 3, 2022 (© Bryan Woolston/Reuters via France 24)

NATO was said to be supportive of the military movements, with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stating that they had already increased military presence in the eastern flank of NATO. “We’re ready to further increase our presence in the eastern part of the alliance, if necessary,” said Stoltenberg.

This Russian aggression was downplayed by Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya during the emergency United Nations Security Council meeting held on February 22, stating that Ukraine was the aggressor of the violence along the border and accused Ukraine of going on a ‘military adventure’ with the shelling that was supposedly Ukraine’s doing, which Ukraine has denied.

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As a response, Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya asserted that they were well within their rights to claim Donbas due to their internationally recognized borders. “We are on our land. We are not afraid of anything or anyone. We owe nothing to anyone. And we will not give away anything to anyone,” said Kyslytsya.

Following the President’s remarks this afternoon, the Pentagon announced that an additional 7,000 troops comprising an Armored Brigade Combat Team would be leaving for Germany in the coming days to “reassure” NATO allies.

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