LONDON — As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. has sent thousands of troops to Europe. Even before the attack, President Biden escalated the U.S. military presence in Poland, which shares a key land border with Ukraine.
In February alone, 12,000 U.S.-based forces were sent to Europe.
But how many American soldiers are in Europe? According to a U.S. Department of Defense assessment in late February, the total is about 90,000, including some soldiers transferred from European bases to be closer to Russia and Ukraine.
In particular, Biden directed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to mobilize forces to the Baltic republics, Poland and Ukraine’s southeastern flank, the Defense Department said. Austin ordered 800 soldiers from Italy to relocate to the Baltic region and 1,000 soldiers from Germany to Romania. Officials said the move is only temporary.
“These additional personnel are being repositioned to reassure our NATO allies, deter any potential aggression against NATO member states, and train with host-nation forces,” a senior U.S. official said in the Defense Department release.
Both the U.S. and its allies have repeatedly stressed that their troops are not being sent to directly battle Russian troops in Ukraine, though NATO countries and others have been sending military supplies to the Ukrainians in an attempt to bolster their defense.
“That’s a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at one another,” Biden told NBC News last month when asked about fighting Russia.
The U.S. clearly hopes Russia sees that same risk if the Kremlin succeeds in conquering Ukraine and looks to attack any NATO countries that were once part of the Soviet empire. The Baltic countries — Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia — as well as Poland, Hungary and Romania, all of which border either Russia or Ukraine, are on edge.
But military deployments to deter potential Russian aggression are not new. For decades after World War II, the U.S. maintained large military bases in Europe during the Cold War, in which Washington and Moscow threatened each other with atomic annihilation in a protracted game of nuclear brinkmanship.
And it’s not just troops. During the Cold War, the U.S. had more than 2,500 nuclear warheads in Europe, but after the Soviet Union crumbled, more than three decades ago — forming states like Ukraine — that number rapidly decreased. The U.S. has 12 Air Force bases stretching from the United Kingdom to Turkey. U.S. Navy bases are also dotted around the continent, and NATO fleets are patrolling the Mediterranean Sea during the Ukrainian conflict.
As Russian attacks continue to rage, Ukraine is also looking for financial and humanitarian aid. On Feb. 27, the Biden administration, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department, announced it would provide an additional $54 million in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
“This additional assistance will support our partners to provide critically needed health care, safe drinking water, sanitation, hygiene supplies, and protection for vulnerable children,” USAID said in a statement. It added, “This includes critical emergency health supplies to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of people, as well as emergency food assistance to meet the immediate needs of 125,000 people.”
Since the Russian conflict in Ukraine began in 2014, the U.S. has provided nearly $405 million in humanitarian aid.