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Pentagon puts 8,500 U.S. troops on ‘heightened readiness’ status in response to Ukraine

The Defense Department said this week that thousands of U.S. troops around the country have been put into a higher state of readiness in response to growing signs that a Russian attack against Ukraine is imminent.

“In support of its obligations to the security and defense of NATO and the security of its citizens abroad, at the direction of the president and following recommendations made by Secretary [Lloyd] Austin, the United States has taken steps to heighten the readiness of its forces at home and abroad so they are prepared to respond to a range of contingencies, including support to the NATO response force if it is activated,” Kirby said.

Kirby said this decision was made because the Biden administration is “deeply concerned” about Russia’s “unusual military activities near the Ukrainian border.”

Kirby said about 8,500 troops are now on this heightened readiness status, and that they are spread throughout the country. The status change means these troops will be able to respond more quickly if the North Atlantic Treaty Organization calls on members to contribute to any military effort as part of the NATO Response Force.

He stressed that no U.S. troops have been deployed at this time. He said decision puts the U.S. in a position to contribute combat, logistics, aviation, intelligence, transportation and other specialized troops to the effort if NATO calls for help. The bulk of the activated U.S. forces are ground troops.

“What this is about… is reassurance to our NATO allies,” Kirby said.

Kirby said the decision was taken to demonstrate America’s support for NATO, but also to deter Russia from taking any action against Ukraine.

Some American advisers and trainers are already in Ukraine, and the Biden administration has approved the transfer of some weaponry to that country. Kirby reminded reporters that the administration has repeatedly warned about “very severe economic consequences” against Russia should it act.

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