Up to 8,500 U.S. troops are now under “heightened preparedness’ for a potential deployment to aid Ukraine under orders from President Joe Biden, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday, though he emphasized that no decision has been made on whether the troops will actually go.
Kirby said Biden instructed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to issue an order to put the troops on alert.
If deployed, the American troops are expected to aid a NATO response force that’s been ramping up to deter Russian forces that have been gathering along the Ukrainian border, but Kirby also said the troops will be “ready for other contingencies.”
Ukrainian intelligence suggests more than 125,000 Russian troops have now assembled near the border, and American officials have said Russia is well-positioned to launch an immediate invasion.
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday the U.S. troops wouldn’t likely be authorized to enter Ukraine, but they would be placed nearby and could orchestrate a mass evacuation if the U.S. issues an order for American citizens to leave the country.
“It’s very clear the Russians have no intention of deescalating,” Kirby said at a news conference.