(WASHINGTON) — The Pentagon has ordered 3,000 more soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division to Poland as tensions continued to mount about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, a senior defense official said Friday.
The deployment of the additional troops to Poland came as the White House warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could begin during the Olympics and urged all American citizens in Ukraine to leave the country over the next 24 to 48 hours.
“At the direction of the President, Secretary Austin today ordered to Poland the remaining 3,000 soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Infantry Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Bragg, N.C.,” said a senior U.S. defense official. “These troops will depart Fort Bragg over the next couple of days. They are expected to be in place by early next week.”
The additional paratroopers will join the 1,700 soldiers from the same unit who began arriving in Poland earlier this week to help prepare the infrastructure needed if additional American forces were deployed to Poland.
Those soldiers were part of a deployment announced last week that included sending 300 soldiers from the 18th Airborne Corps headquarters unit to Germany and sending 1,000 soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Regiment based in Germany to Romania.
“They are being deployed to reassure our NATO allies, deter any potential aggression against NATO’s eastern flank, train with host-nation forces, and contribute to a wide range of contingencies,” said the senior defense official.
Those soldiers from the 82nd Airborne have been arriving at an airport in southeast Poland located 60 miles form the border with Ukraine. A U.S. official has told ABC News that these troops would be prepared to provide assistance to any American citizens fleeing Ukraine by land.
“These additional deployments are temporary in nature, meant to supplement for a brief time the more than 80,000 U.S. troops already in Europe on rotational and permanent orders,” said the senior defense official. The 3,000 troops now headed to Poland were not among the 8,500 troops based in the United States who had been put on “heightened alert” two weeks ago in case they needed to be deployed on short notice as part of the NATO Response Force.
Additional U.S. aircraft and accompanying personnel already in Europe have moved closer to NATO’s eastern flank as tensions have grown in recent days.
Eight American F-15 fighter jets along with about 130 troops with the 493 Fighter Squadron based in the United Kingdom arrived in Poland Thursday.
“The extra fighters will bolster readiness and Allied deterrence and defense as Russia continues military build-up in and around Ukraine,” a statement from U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa said.
Another squadron of Air Force F-16 fighters based in Germany arrived in Romania on Friday.
Additional naval power has also been sent to the European region, with four U.S.-based destroyers deployed to “participate in a range of maritime activities in support of the U.S. Sixth Fleet and our NATO allies,” according to the U.S. Navy.
While not confirming the deployment of the four ships is directly tied to tensions with Russia, a Navy official noted that they destroyers bring options to the region.
“One of the unique values of naval forces is their mobility and ability to deploy for a range of contingencies and operations,” the official said. “These deployments provide additional flexibility to the Sixth Fleet Commander.”
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