By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Jan. 25, 2022) -- Yesterday the Pentagon announced that some 8,500 U.S.-based military personnel have been put on a high state of alert. While none of those troops has yet been asked to deploy, Pentagon spokesperson John F. Kirby told reporters the Defense Department and the U.S. government continue to be actively involved in addressing concerns of NATO allies about a possible Russian incursion into Ukraine.
During a press conference today, Kirby told reporters the U.S. continues to send security assistance to Ukraine.
"We're shipping over additional security assistance to the Ukrainians as we speak," he said. "[Planes] are taking off and landing in Kyiv. So, we are acting."
President Joe Biden has also spoken twice with Russian President Vladimir Putin and explained that there will be "severe consequences," largely economic, if there were to be a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kirby said.
The United States is also having active dialogues with allies and partners in Europe about what they think is necessary to bolster their own defensive capabilities.
"We are increasing the alert posture on quite a number of U.S. troops here, stateside, as well as taking a look at what could possibly be moved around on the European continent," Kirby said.
Russia has amassed many troops in Russia and Belarus near the border with Ukraine. The number of troops there continues to rise.
"We have seen a consistent accumulation of combat power by the Russians in the western part of their country around the borders with Ukraine and Belarus," Kirby said. "[Putin] continues to add to his force capability in western Russia and in Belarus. We've seen no signs of de-escalation ... what we're hoping for is a de-escalation. And one of the best ways they could de-escalate the tension would be to remove some of those forces away from Ukraine."
That de-escalation hasn't happened, yet, Kirby said.
The 8,500 troops alerted to ready themselves for a rapid deployment if called upon are still inside the U.S., Kirby said. They will mostly be assigned to the NATO Response Force. So if and when they deploy, it will only be after being requested by NATO.
"That would be a NATO decision," Kirby said.
If any additional U.S. troops would deploy or would be readied to deploy to support individual NATO allies, Kirby said. Such a decision would come as a result of conversations with that ally directly. Right now, he said, there's no official word that such conversations have happened.
Right now, Kirby said, the United States still believes there is time for diplomacy.
"We still don't believe Mr. Putin has made a final decision whether to conduct another incursion/invasion into Ukraine," Kirby said. "We still think there's time and space here for diplomacy and dialogue to work. ... We still think there's room and time for diplomacy, and the department wants to make sure that we help provide that ... time and space for the diplomats."