More U.S. troops 'may be sent to eastern Europe'
Thursday, April 10, 2014
PARIS - NATO's top military commander in Europe has said the alliance could deploy U.S. troops to member states in eastern Europe as a countermeasure to Russia’s military build-up on the Ukrainian border.
In the French capital Paris to attend a NATO conference, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove told Associated Press (AP) that they were essentially looking at "a package of land, air and maritime measures that would build assurance" for their easternmost allies.
"I'm tasked to deliver this by next week; I fully intend to deliver it early," he said.
When asked if American soldiers might be sent to NATO's front-line states closest to Russia, Breedlove said that he would not write off contributions from any nation.
"What we see there is a force of about 40,000," the general said, adding that Russia's military presence close to the Ukrainian border continued. "I would characterize it as a combined arms army. In other words, this is an army that has all of the provisioning and enablers that it needs to accomplish military objectives if given them."
Underlining Russia’s assets, including fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, artillery, field hospitals, communications and jamming gear, Breedlove said Kremlin objectives still remained unclear.
The General stated the force could stand and intimidate Ukraine solely by its presence, drive south to create a land bridge with Crimea, push along the Black Sea coast to the Ukrainian port city of Odessa and the largely Russian Trans-Dniester enclave of Moldova, or invade other areas of eastern Ukraine where ethnic Russians are demanding unity with Moscow.
NATO foreign minister had requested Breedlove take steps to reinforce NATO defenses among its eastern European members, including Poland.
After the political crisis in Ukraine, Russian troops had seized control over Crimean peninsula. In a controversial referendum held on March 16, Crimea voted to secede from Kiev in favor of unification with Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill that officially incorporated Crimea into the Russian Federation on March 21.
The U.S. and other Western countries accuse Moscow of creating a military colony on its border to put pressure on the interim Ukrainian government.
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