The Pentagon announced Monday, Jan. 24, that it ordered the readiness of some 8,500 troops to be sent to the Ukraine-Russia border if the NATO defense protocol is activated.

“Secretary Austin has placed a range of units in the United States on a heightened preparedness to deploy, which increases our readiness to provide forces if NATO should activate the NATO National Response Force,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby on Monday according to Fox News.

NATO’s National Response Force is a multinational rapid-response protocol encompassing land, air, sea, and special operations, comprising some 40,000 troops.

Kirby again reiterated that the United States would defend the interests of its allies from the Russian threat if necessary. However, a decision has not yet been made to send troops to the area of potential conflict.

The move has come just three days since Secretary Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva last Friday. Both had pledged to reduce tension by pursuing a diplomatic track.

At the meeting, Lavrov again demanded that NATO stop advancing near its border and that Ukraine must not join NATO. For his part, Blinken said he would send a written response this week.

Arguing for the Pentagon’s decision, Kirby said, “The United States is deeply concerned about the current situation in Europe.

“We remain keenly focused on Russia’s unusual military activities near the Ukrainian border, including in Belarus, and consulting extensively with our transatlantic allies and partners. The department continues to support diplomatic efforts to deescalate the situation.”

The Defense Department clarified that it was still notifying units that could be sent to the area, including combat teams and brigades, logistics, medical, aviation, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, transportation, and additional capabilities. 

Britain, the United States, Spain, and other European bloc countries have already sent armaments, ships, and warplanes to Ukraine for its defense.

Accusations against Russia range from supporting pro-Russian rebel forces in Donbas to wanting to invade Ukraine to place a leader who responds to the Kremlin’s interests.

However, Russia has denied all the accusations and instead points to NATO’s advance on its border. On at least one occasion, Putin has admitted that he considers Ukraine to be part of Russia that was lost with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. 

According to Russian state media, Ukraine violated the Minsk agreements guaranteeing a cease-fire, which provoked the Russian military’s response.

Beyond the readiness of U.S. troops, the Biden administration remains committed to a diplomatic solution but does not rule out using military force:

“Now, as the president has said, even as we continue to prioritize diplomacy and dialogue, we must also increase readiness in support of its obligations to the security and defense of NATO and the security of its citizens abroad,” Kirby said.

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