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US sending 7,000 troops to Europe as NATO activates response force for first time

Trainees from the 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment, 194th Armored Brigade conduct tank live fire training Jan, 20, 2022 at Hastings Range.
Illustration: US Army file photo

US president Joe Biden has ordered the deployment of 7,000 US service members to Germany to enhance deterrence of Russia in a move that coincided with the activation of the NATO response force for the first time in history.

The NATO Response Force (NRF) is a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force made up of around 40,000 land, air, maritime and special operations forces (SOF) components that the alliance can deploy quickly, wherever needed. This is the first time NRF is being activated after its establishment in 2003.

“We have activated NATO’s defense plans to prepare ourselves to respond to a range of contingencies and secure alliance territory, including by drawing on our response forces,” NATO heads of state said in a joint statement following a meeting on February 25.

“We are now making significant additional defensive deployments of forces to the eastern part of the alliance. We will make all deployments necessary to ensure strong and credible deterrence and defense across the Alliance, now and in the future. Our measures are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory.”

Speaking to reporters on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also added that a cyber attack could be considered one of the Article 5 triggers.

“On cyber, well we have stated that cyber attacks can trigger Article 5. But we have never gone into the position where we give a potential adversary the privilege of defining exactly when we trigger Article 5.”

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has ordered the deployment of the 7,000 service members, with the major unit in this tranche of troops being the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Georgia.

This means some 12,000 US troops, total, have deployed or been ordered to deploy to Europe from the United States and another 2,000 troops in Europe who have moved closer to NATO’s eastern flank. They join 80,000 US service members based in Europe. Adding in the service members of NATO members on the continent, this brings the number to more than 2 million, the official said.

Some of the US troops deploying are from the group Austin put on a heightened state of readiness in January, the official said.

The troops will deploy to Germany initially, the official said. They could be repositioned to other NATO countries as needed. “We expect them to depart [the United States] in coming days,” a US official said.

Russian forces continue to attack in Ukraine at the major population centers of Kyiv – the capital — and Kharkiv, in the eastern part of the country. The official said that Ukrainian units are fighting the Russian invasion, but there is no way to categorize their resistance.

According to Pentagon assessments, Russia has launched at least 160 short-range, medium-range and cruise missiles into Ukraine from land, sea and air, the official said, and more Russian troops have entered Ukraine. The missiles are aimed at military bases and airfields around Kharkiv and Kyiv. Again, there is no way to verify how accurate they are or what casualties they are causing. Footage emerging on social media often shows Russian artillery attacks on civilian infrastructure.