About 3,000 U.S. troops will deploy to locations in Eastern Europe in the coming days in response to the continued Russian buildup near the borders of Ukraine and in Belarus.
The deployments include 1,000 who will be moving from Germany to Romania, and 2,000 from the U.S. who will head to Germany and Poland.
“At the president’s direction and following Secretary Austin’s recommendation, the Department of Defense will reposition certain Europe-based units further east, forward deploy additional U.S.-based units to Europe, and maintain the heightened state of readiness of response forces to meet these commitments,” a senior administration official told CBS News.
The troops that are moving from Germany to Romania are coming from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. These forces are equipped with wheeled fighting vehicles, and they’ll be joining the 900 troops that are already in regular rotation in Romania.
About 1,700 of the 2,000 troops coming from the U.S. are coming from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from the 82nd Airborne Division. Another 300 will be provided by the 18th Airborne Corps. According to a fact sheet released by the Defense Department, these troops can perform a “variety of missions to deter aggression.”
On Wednesday morning, the Pentagon emphasized that the troop movement was temporary and that they would not deploy to Ukraine.
“I want to be very clear about something,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday. “These are not permanent moves. They are designed to respond to the current security environment. Moreover, these forces are not going to fight in Ukraine. They’re going to ensure the robust defense of our NATO allies.”
Kirby also noted that these deployments are taking place in addition to movements already made by NATO allies to support Eastern Europeans countries. For instance, six American F-15s and the U.S. Air Force personnel to fly them have arrived at an airbase in Estonia. They’re joining Belgian F-16s as part of a multinational force conducting air patrols along the NATO’s eastern flank this week.
The Pentagon has warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin could launch an invasion of Ukraine at any time. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley on Friday said Russia has amassed over 100,000 ground forces, air forces, naval forces and special forces, as well as cyber and electronic warfare and other capabilities on Ukraine’s border.
The troops are moving within Europe to bolster the countries in the eastern flank of NATO. The U.S. already has thousands of troops in Europe that could be called upon to support. For instance, according to the Pentagon, there are approximately 100 rotational U.S. military personnel deployed to Lithuania, 4,000 to Poland, and 60 to Latvia and Estonia.
President Biden has said no U.S. troops would deploy to Ukraine if Russia were to invade, but the administration did say it could deploy troops to the region even before an invasion. The U.S. and its partners in NATO have already sent assets to the region in a show of support.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO but it shares a border with four NATO countries — Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania — which could face repercussions if Russia were to launch a full invasion of Ukraine.
The U.S. has also put 8,500 stateside troops on heightened alert to deploy to Eastern Europe in case NATO activates its shared NATO Response Force, but the alliance has not yet activated it.
If both the U.S. troops and the U.S. troops committed to the NATO Response Force deploy, there would be more than 8,500 U.S. troops bolstering the defense of NATO’s eastern flank.
Sara Cook contributed to this report.
CBS News reporter covering the Pentagon.