Thousands of U.S. troops are being placed on heightened alert and readied for deployment to Eastern Europe as fears mount regarding the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. The 8,500 troops are part of a broader effort by the United States and the Western European NATO countries to reassure Eastern European NATO allies. Troops will not be sent directly into Ukraine; Americans are currently being evacuated from that country.
Russian troops poised to invade
How serious Putin is about his threatened invasion of Ukraine remains to be seen, but the White House evidently feels that the threat is now very real.
President Biden’s botched responses to the threatened invasion so far have not inspired any confidence in Kiev or the rest of Eastern Europe, but the deployment of U.S. troops to the region might.
Russia has roughly 100,000 troops and heavy weaponry in place for an invasion of Ukrainian territory. The force has been steadily amassing over a period of months and Russia has made little effort to hide its purpose.
There is little doubt that a Russian offensive could overwhelm Ukrainian forces if Putin gives the order; the small American force in the region would not be of any help in that situation.
NATO hopes that having forces ready to be sent into the area would show Putin that he cannot hope to get away with seizing Ukrainian territory without some kind of consequence.
The problem is that no one seems to know what kind of consequences there will be. No sane Western leader wants to fight an all-out war with Russia over this.
A haphazard NATO response
Short of sparking an unwinnable war against a global power, there isn’t much the physical presence of U.S. troops can do if Putin chooses to call the bluff.
NATO as a whole is, according to Biden, internally divided over what the collective response to Russian aggression should be. Much of Europe depends on Russia for fuel, making even economic responses difficult.
The Ukrainian government, at least, is downplaying the threat somewhat. Kiev is in a delicate situation; the Ukrainians are desperate for support from NATO, but simultaneously determined to prove that they are not yet a lost cause.
The Ukrainian president is reportedly exasperated with Biden’s incoherent response to the situation so far, including the current evacuation of embassy staff and their families.
One Ukrainian official argued that American citizens are probably safer in Kiev than they are in the streets of Los Angeles or Chicago.
He went on to point out the irritation many Ukrainians feel with the fact that the United States has been telling them how to govern themselves and stand up to the Russians for years but is pulling out in a hurry now that the situation might be dangerous.