Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Six hundred U.S. troops based in Italy were deployed Tuesday to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in a move to reassure NATO allies amid the Russia’s aggressive posturing against Ukraine.
Vice President Joe Biden also reassured Ukraine during a visit to Kiev Tuesday that the U.S. stands by with Ukrainians amid the tension with Russia.
Of the 600 troops deploying to the four Eastern European countries, 150 soldiers from the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade will arrive in Poland on Wednesday and the rest will arrive in the Baltic states on Monday, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby. The troops will conduct infantry exercises and will be replaced to have a continuing U.S. military presence in the said countries.
Kirby told reporters at Pentagon that the deployment aims to strengthen NATO’s plans and capabilities to defend allies in Central and Eastern Europe against Russian aggression. NATO members are obliged to defend any member that is attacked by another country.
European Command officials also said the four countries requested the presence of more U.S. and NATO troops in their land.
In Kiev, Biden’s message of U.S. support was announced by the vice president after meeting Ukraine’s acting prime minister Arseny Yatsenyuk and acting President Oleksandr Turchynov. Biden also said the U.S. will not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and urged Moscow to pull back Russian troops massed in Ukraine’s eastern border and fulfill its promise to de-escalate tension in eastern Ukraine by getting pro-Russia separatists to vacate buildings and abandon checkpoints.
Biden warned more sanctions against Russia if it continues to destabilize Ukraine.
Turchynov is reactivating military operation in eastern Ukraine as the bodies of two Ukrainians, one a local politician and patriot, were found in a river in Slovyansk, where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings to demand separation from Ukraine.
Vladimir Rybak was kidnapped a day earlier and his body bore signs of torture, according to Ukrainian police. Turchynov accused Russia of having a hand in his murder.