US weighs more troops for Nato allies as Ukraine tensions mount

January 25, 2022

WASHINGTON: The United States is weighing sending as many as 5,000 troops to Nato allies in the Baltic and Eastern Europe as concerns mount that Russia might invade Ukraine, US media reported on...

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WASHINGTON: The United States is weighing sending as many as 5,000 troops to Nato allies in the Baltic and Eastern Europe as concerns mount that Russia might invade Ukraine, US media reported on Monday.

The possible deployment could involve 1,000 to 5,000 troops, along with naval vessels and aircraft, according to the New York Times. It said the number could rise sharply if conditions deteriorate.

CNN said the Pentagon is identifying which units would go but that the final decision to deploy them has not been taken. The option came out of discussions on the Ukraine crisis between US President Joe Biden and his advisers, including Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, over the weekend.

US officials, speaking anonymously, said that they are consulting with allies on deployments and studying all scenarios. Nato said on Monday it was sending jets and ships to bolster its eastern European flank. The United States, Britain and Australia has ordered diplomats’ families to leave Kyiv.

The moves came after talks between Russia and the US-European side last week failed to bring about any significant breakthrough. Russia has an estimated 100,000-plus troops on the Ukraine border and is demanding guarantees that the country would not be allowed to join Nato, which Kyiv has repeatedly asked to do. The US and Nato allies have warned Moscow of tough sanctions and other actions that would cause "severe" damage to the Russian economy if it invades Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin on Monday accused the United States and Nato of ramping up tensions after the US-led military bloc said it was bolstering Europe’s eastern defences amid the Ukraine crisis.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Washington and Nato were escalating tensions through "information hysteria" and "concrete actions," adding that the risk of an offensive by Ukrainian troops against Moscow-backed separatists was "very high."

"We live in an aggressive environment," Peskov told reporters during a conference call, adding that President Vladimir Putin was taking "necessary measures" to protect the country. The West accuses Moscow of threatening to invade Ukraine by massing over 100,000 troops on its border. Russia denies it is planning an incursion and accuses Nato of advancing towards its borders.

Peskov said Monday that Ukraine was preparing an offensive in the east of the country where Kyiv troops have been fighting pro-Russia separatists since 2014. "The Ukrainian authorities are concentrating a huge amount of forces and means on the border with the self-proclaimed republics," he said.

"The nature of this concentration speaks of preparations for an offensive," he said, adding the risk of such an operation now "is very high, higher than before." Several rounds of talks between Russia and the West have so far failed to ease tensions.

Earlier, Russia risks creating a "new Chechnya" if it invades Ukraine, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday, warning of a protracted and violent conflict there.Johnson said he did not think an invasion was inevitable, despite what he described as "gloomy" intelligence about the build-up of Russian forces on the border with Ukraine.

But he told reporters: "Invading Ukraine, from a Russian perspective, is going to be a painful, violent and bloody business. "I think it’s very important that the people in Russia understand this could be a new Chechnya."

Johnson’s comments echo that of his Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in Sydney last week, where she said President Vladimir Putin had "not learned the lessons of history". "Invasion will only lead to a terrible quagmire and loss of life, as we know from the Soviet-Afghan war and conflict in Chechnya," she said.

Truss’ department on Saturday alleged that it had information the Kremlin was seeking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv, in an unusual diplomatic step. It did not release details of the evidence, which a US official called "deeply concerning". Russia dismissed the claims as "disinformation".

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