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US puts 8,500 troops on heightened alert amid Russia tension

APTOPIX Europe Russia Ukraine NATO
Posted at 3:14 PM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-24 15:14:51-05

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Pentagon says that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has put up to 8,500 troops on heightened alert, so they will be prepared to deploy if needed to reassure NATO allies in the face of ongoing Russian aggression on the border of Ukraine.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday no final decisions have been made on deployments.

He said the order is about ensuring that the U.S. is ready to respond if NATO decides to deploy its response force.

Kirby said: "What this is about is reassurance to our NATO allies."

The news comes after the U.S. Embassy and American personnel families in Kyiv were ordered on Sunday by the State Department to leave the country.

Earlier on Monday, NATO said Denmark was sending ships to the Baltic Sea, and planes to Lithuania. Spain was also sending ships and possible fighter jets to Bulgaria. France could send troops to Romania if needed.

On Friday, U.S. and Russian diplomats met in Geneva, where Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned after a meeting that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be "met with a severe and a united response."