In Monday's Pentagon Briefing, Press Secretary John Kirby announced that roughly 8,500 U.S. troops were being placed on "heightened alert" to prepare for their potential role with a NATO Response Force (NRF) in response to Russia's actions against Ukraine in recent weeks.
"Secretary Austin has placed a range of units in the United States on a heightened preparedness to deploy which increases our readiness to provide forces if NATO should activate the NRF or if other situations develop," Kirby told reporters. "All told, the number of forces that the secretary has placed on heightened alert comes up to about 8,500 personnel," he added.
BREAKING: Pentagon places 8,500 troops in the United States on ‘heightened alert,’ no decision to deploy yet to Europe— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) January 24, 2022
"This will ensure that the United States and our commitment to the NRF is consistent with their readiness for rapid deployment if activated," Kirby continued. "In the event of NATO's activation of the NRF or a deteriorating security environment, the United States would be in a position to rapidly deploy additional brigade combat teams, logistics, medical, aviation, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, transportation, and additional capabilities into Europe," he emphasized.
All this preparation, though, doesn't mean any of the 8,500 personnel will be deployed to Europe because, according to Kirby, "as of now the decision has been made to put these units on higher alert and higher alert only" and "no decisions have been made to deploy any forces from the United States at this time." That call would come from NATO in coordination with member nations, and rely on the Pentagon to order the readied forces to deploy.
Kirby said the decision is about reassuring America's NATO allies and that, because there's no specific mission yet, "it's very difficult" to say "what equates success" for U.S. forces in the situation unfolding between Russia and Ukraine. Even still, Kirby said the heightened readiness shows Russia "how serious" the United States takes the matter.
"The large bulk of the reason for these prepare to deploy orders is really to make sure that we're ready to bolster the NATO alliance and to proves the solidarity of the alliance," Kirby added.