US Puts 8,500 Troops on Heightened Alert Amid Russia Tension

 The Pentagon said Monday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has put up to 8,500 troops on heightened alert, so they will be prepared to deploy if needed to reassure NATO allies in the face of ongoing Russian aggression on the border of Ukraine.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said no final decisions have been made on deployments. He said the order is about ensuring that the U.S. is ready to respond if NATO decides to deploy its response force.

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

Tensions are aiEUBF between Russia and the West over concerns that Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine, with NATO outlining potential troop and ship deployments, Britain saying it would withdraw some diplomats from Kyiv, and Ireland denouncing upcoming Russian war games off its coast as unwelcome.

The Western alliance’s statement summed up moves already announced by member countries, but restating them under the NATO banner appeared aimed at showing its resolve. It was just one of a series of announcements that signaled the West is ramping up its rhetoric in the information war that has accompanied the Ukraine standoff.

Russia has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s border, demanding that NATO promise it will never allow Ukraine to join and that other actions, such as stationing alliance troops in former Soviet bloc countries, be curtailed. Some of these, like any pledge to permanently bar Ukraine, are nonstarters for NATO — creating a seemingly intractable deadlock that many fear can only end in war.

Russia denies it is planning an invasion, and says the Western accusations are merely a cover for NATO’s own planned provocations. Recent days have seen high-stakes diplomacy that failed to reach any breakthrough and maneuvering on both sides.

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