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Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby conducts a news briefing at the Pentagon on February 1, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Escalating Ukraine Tensions, Pentagon Deploys 3,000 Troops to Eastern Europe

"The priorities of the U.S. clearly haven't changed," said CodePink. "It will take a massive anti-war movement to end this!"

Julia Conley

The Pentagon announced that it would send 3,000 troops to three NATO nations in Eastern Europe amid accusations by Russian and Ukrainian officials as well as anti-war advocates that the U.S. is escalating tensions in the region.

According to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, President Joe Biden directed the Department of Defense to send troops to Poland, Germany, and Romania after meeting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley on Tuesday.

The deployment is separate and in addition to the 8,500 troops who have been placed on "prepare-to-deploy orders," Kirby said. The number of troops with those orders has now increased by several thousand, according to the Pentagon.

Kirby asserted the deployment is "appropriate, defensive, and non-escalatory" and was in response to the 100,000 troops Russia has assembled at the Ukrainian border.

"It's important we send a strong signal to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and frankly to the world that NATO matters to the United States and it matters to our allies," he said.

Kirby repeated that assertion after being pressed by a reporter regarding the signal the deployment sends considering the U.S. did not wait for a vote from NATO to send alliance forces to the region.

The decision to send forces comes days after Biden said he planned to deploy "not too many" troops to Eastern European NATO countries and led one reporter to ask Kirby at a press briefing Wednesday whether the deployment is consistent with the president's previous comments.

"These orders that the secretary is giving today are very much in keeping with the president's comments," Kirby said before adding that the U.S. may send "additional force movements if that's desired and needed."

"Biden really withdrew troops from Afghanistan just to deploy them to Eastern Europe," tweeted CodePink in response to the news. "The priorities of the U.S. clearly haven't changed."

Kirby claimed in the press conference that Putin is "showing no signs of being interested or willing to deescalate the tensions," contrary to reports from late last week that Putin spoke with French President Emanuel Macron about diplomatic efforts and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's statement that "if it depends on Russia, then there will be no war."

Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya also said Tuesday that the U.S. is "provoking escalation" with false claims about Russia's intentions in Ukraine, and Putin expressed hope that "dialogue will be continued."

Despite those statements, Kirby said Wednesday that the Biden administration does not "know if Russia has made a final decision to invade Ukraine. It clearly has that capability."

Russia has demanded a guarantee from the U.S. that Ukraine will be excluded from NATO, in keeping with a promise made in 1990, among other security measures.

CodePink called on the public to join a nationwide day of action on February 5 to demand an end to the military escalation and call on the U.S. to seek a diplomatic resolution.

"We will participate in actions and teach-ins around the country to resist the normalization of war and demand that not a single bullet or gun be sent to Ukraine," said the group.

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