An additional 5,000 United States military forces arrived in Poland on Feb. 17 with another 1,000 scheduled to land in Romania on Saturday to bolster NATO’s eastern flank as the alliance and the US rejected assertions by Russia that it was withdrawing troops from Ukraine’s borders.
An unnamed US official told the New York Times that contrary to what the Kremlin had stated, Russian troops continued to mass on Ukraine’s borders with an additional 8,000 arriving on Feb. 16, bringing the total to well over 150,000 troops, up from the 130,000 figure that was being used only a couple of weeks ago. The official said that Russia was simply “lying.”
To further discuss the ongoing Ukraine crisis and how to counter Russia’s threats, US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III will meet with the head of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, in Brussels on Feb. 17. Stoltenberg, like other Western officials, said he also saw nothing to support Russia’s claim of a drawdown.
“What we see is that Russian troops are moving into position,” Mr. Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.
The arrival of the additional troops to Poland and Romania brings the number of U.S. troops now in Eastern Europe to 11,000, part of a contingency of 80,000 NATO troops from several countries scattered among the eastern European states.
Soltenberg said that Russia’s refusal to de-escalate is moving NATO to begin forming new battle groups along its eastern flank.
“We do not know what will happen in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said. “But the situation has already demonstrated that we face a crisis in European security. Moscow has made it clear that it is prepared to contest the fundamental principles that have underpinned our security for decades, and to do so by using force. I regret to say that this is the new normal in Europe.’’
Soltenberg said that several NATO defense ministers have directed their military commanders to make plans for new combat units to step up the military alliance’s presence in member nations near Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
The small battle groups would be stationed in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia. Such groups already exist in Poland and the three Baltic nations, established there after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
With the crisis showing no signs of abating, the 27 leaders of the European Union member states were also scheduled to meet on Thursday in Brussels for an extraordinary summit.
Source: With Agencies