Pentagon On Ukraine: US Forces Will be Ready

Pentagon On Ukraine: US Forces Will be Ready

Nato Troops
Photo by: U.S. Army/Spc. Osvaldo Fuentes

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley on Jan. 28 called for diplomacy and peace as Russia continues to mass “tens of thousands” of troops on its border with Ukraine.

“There is no reason this situation has to devolve into conflict,” Austin said in a briefing with reporters. He added that conflict is not inevitable. “There’s still time and space for diplomacy,” he said.

Milley echoed Austin’s remarks. “Ukraine has the right to be independent. We strongly encourage Russia to stand down,” he said.

Austin and Milley said they believe Russian President Vladimir Putin has not made a “final decision” about using his forces against Ukraine, but if he chose to, “he clearly now has that capability,” Austin said.

The U.S. continues to send security assistance material to Ukraine, and it is focused on supporting its NATO allies and partners, Austin said.  This includes putting up to 8,500 U.S. troops on heightened alert in case they are needed to support the NATO Response Force, a multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and special operations forces that the alliance can deploy quickly.

These troops include soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division, and the 4th Infantry Division.

The U.S. has a “small contingent” of military advisers and trainers in Ukraine, but it has no permanent forces and “zero” offensive weapons systems there, Milley said.

There are about 150,000 people in Ukraine’s active-duty military, he added. “Their combat capabilities have improved, but they need additional help to defend themselves,” Milley said. 

Any conflict in Ukraine, Europe’s second-largest country with a population of 44 million people, would be “horrific, it would be terrible, and it is not necessary,” Milley said. “If war were to break out on the scale and scope that is possible, the civilian population would suffer immensely,” he said.

The U.S. continues to monitor the situation in Europe “very, very closely,” Milley said. 

“Our focus is to make sure that whatever happens, we’re prepared to reassure our allies in the region and support NATO’s efforts,” Austin said.

Milley added, “The uniformed U.S. military is prepared to do whatever we’re directed to do.”