Size and scope of new US troop presence in Europe to deter Russia sparks debate in Congress


The Biden administration faces competing pressures in Congress over US troop deployments in Europe as fears grow that Russia could soon launch a massive invasion of Ukraine.

Lawmakers from both parties are praising President Joe Biden’s decision, announced by the Pentagon on Wednesday, to deploy or reposition about 3,000 troops across Europe.

But some lawmakers also wonder if that will be enough to reassure anxious NATO allies and deter Russia from launching an assault. Meanwhile, a small but vocal faction of Republicans is hammering Biden for deploying troops after influential conservatives questioned why the United States should side with deadlocked Ukraine.

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The congressional debate came as administration officials, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, briefed the full House and from the Senate about the current situation with Russia and Ukraine.

Russia has mustered more than 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine, and the Biden administration has warned that Russia could launch an invasion at any time. Such a move would mark an escalation after Russia invaded the Ukrainian territory of Crimea in 2014 and continues to back separatists in the Donbass region.

Administration officials reportedly informed Congress of Russian plans to use a fake video of Ukrainians attacking Russia as a pretext for war, according to the New York Times.

While lawmakers did not confirm details of the classified briefing, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, told reporters that Russia was “in the process of producing movies, producing press releases, producing false evidence that the Ukrainians are doing something to provoke them.”

In the face of potential Russian action, the United States is deploying about 2,000 troops with the 82nd Airborne Division and 18th Airborne Corps from Fort Bragg, North Carolina to Germany and Poland. A thousand additional soldiers with a squadron of Army Strykers already stationed in Germany are being repositioned in Romania.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, DN.H., who recently led a congressional delegation to Ukraine and co-leads a congressional caucus supporting NATO, called the deployment a “good start” but added that “we must continue to assess the situation”. to see if more troops will be needed.

Risch told reporters he thought those numbers were enough to reassure US allies in NATO.

“It was not done in a vacuum. It was done in negotiations with” NATO allies, he added.

Deployments are on a rotational basis, but Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., said after the House briefing that the administration should also consider more permanent troops near NATO’s eastern front.

“I encourage the administration, as I have in previous administrations, to consider what our forward deployed presence is in Europe and whether or not we need to strengthen that forward deployed presence,” he said. he declared.

In addition to the troops currently deploying, another 8,500 US troops are on standby to deploy if NATO activates its Response Force.

Sen. Thom Tillis, RN.C., the other NATO caucus co-leader who pointed out that the deployed military personnel are from his state, said he would expect troop levels Americans “back and forth” as the situation evolves, citing troops on alert.

While in general there is bipartisan agreement on the need to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, that unity is under threat from some Republicans following former President Donald Trump’s friendlier attitude toward Russia. Fox News host Tucker Carlson has also had several recent segments defending Moscow’s troop build-up and questioning why the United States would side with Ukraine.

On Thursday, Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., who served as an ambassador during the Trump administration, denounced Biden for allowing Putin to “get away with everything he could hope for.”

But when asked if the level of American troops in Europe is sufficient to counter Putin after the new deployments, Hagerty replied that “we must send troops to our southern border before we send troops to protect the borders of others. nation”.

— Rebecca Kheel can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.

Related: US deploys 3,000 troops to Europe to counter Russian threats to Ukraine

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