US not scaling back troop deployments and military exercises in Eastern Europe: White House

The administration of US President Joe Biden has rejected a media report that the US is ready to propose scaling back troop deployments and military exercises in Eastern Europe next week in talks with Russia.

Quoting a current Biden administration official and two former American national security officials familiar with the planning, NBC News reported on Friday that the Biden administration is “compiling a list of options for force posture changes in Europe to discuss with Russia” at the talks.

The report claimed that the US is prepared to discuss specific moves if Russia is willing to reduce its own military presence on the border near Ukraine.

The sources told NBC News that the Geneva talks, set for January 9 and 10, on the Ukraine crisis could potentially address the scope of military drills held by both Russia and the US, the number of American troops deployed in the Baltic states and Poland, advance notice about the movement of forces, and Russia’s nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in the Russian territory of Kaliningrad between Poland and Lithuania.

In response to the NBC report, US National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement to The Hill, “It is not accurate that the administration is developing options for pulling back US forces in Eastern Europe in preparation for discussions with Russia next week, which we told NBC while they were reporting this story.”

“In fact, we have been clear with Russia, publicly and privately, that should Russia further invade Ukraine we would reinforce our NATO Allies on the eastern flank, to whom we have a sacred obligation,” she continued. “We are firmly tightly lashed up with our NATO Allies as we address this crisis together, on the principle of ‘nothing about you without you.'”

American and Russian officials are expected to meet on Monday amid US accusations that Russia may be planning to invade Ukraine.

A meeting of the NATO-Russia Council will also take place on Wednesday and a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) permanent council, of which Russia is a member, will be held on Thursday.

The Russian government last month made demands on NATO and Ukraine about the future of their relationship. Moscow demanded the Western military alliance deny Ukraine membership to NATO and to roll back its military deployments.

Moscow also proposed that the US not establish any military bases in former Soviet states that are not part of NATO, nor develop a bilateral military alliance with them.

Biden has threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin with “severe sanctions” if Russia launches any military action in neighboring Ukraine.

Biden told reporters last week that he issued the threat to the Russian leader during their last phone call.

“I made it clear to President Putin that if he makes any more moves if he goes into Ukraine, we will have severe sanctions. We will increase our presence in Europe with our NATO allies. There will be a heavy price to pay for it,” Biden told reporters a day after the December 30 call.

The US and its Western allies have cited a Russian military buildup along Ukraine’s border for their claims against Russia. Moscow denies harboring any intention of “invading” Ukraine, besides emphasizing that it can move its troops around within its own borders as it sees fit.

Putin has warned that Moscow will act if the US-led NATO military alliance crosses its red lines in Ukraine.

Putin said the expansion of NATO military infrastructure in Ukraine was a red line he hoped would not be crossed.

The Russian leader further said Moscow would view the deployment of certain offensive missile capabilities on Ukrainian soil as a trigger.

Washington and its allies have been harping on about, what they claim is, Moscow’s ill-intentioned plans for Ukraine since 2014, when a wave of protests overthrew Ukraine’s democratically-elected pro-Moscow government and replaced it with a Western-leaning administration.

A crisis followed after the majority of people in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions refused to accept the new changes and took up arms against Ukrainian troops.

Kiev and the Western countries accuse Moscow of having a hand in the crisis. Moscow denies the allegations.

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