Saying "it's very clear the Russians have no intention right now of de-escalating," a Pentagon spokesman announced Monday that 8,500 US troops have been placed on high alert. Should Russia invade Ukraine, most of them would join a NATO response force that hasn't yet become active, said John Kirby. The rest would be dedicated to the US response, the New York Times reports. The goal of Monday's decision, Kirby said, is to reassure "our NATO allies." President Biden had received several possibilities for deployments Sunday.
Without saying where the troops might be sent, per CNN, Kirby said the US "made it clear to the Eastern flank allies that we're prepared to bolster their capabilities if they need it." Until now, the Biden administration hasn't done much that Russian President Vladimir Putin could portray as threatening, per the Times. But negotiations have gone nowhere. Putin hasn't backed away, and Kirby said the Russians are still bolstering their force at the Ukraine-Belarus border. "They have not only shown no signs of de-escalating, but they are in fact adding more force capability," he said.
Russia still says it's not planning an invasion. "Tensions are escalating due to concrete actions taken by the US and NATO," a Kremlin spokesman said Monday, calling the situation "informational hysteria." Most of the US units being upgraded consist of active-duty ground troops, Kirby said. The "high alert" status may mean that units that had been kept prepared to deploy in 10 days now have to be ready in five. Kirby didn't identify them but said the troops' families were being notified Monday. (More Department of Defense stories.)