The US will significantly increase its military deployments in Europe with additional troops and weaponry, as part of the largest scaling up of Nato defenses since the cold war in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
President Joe Biden said the US would enhance its military presence in Europe “to defend every inch of allied territory”, at a summit of Nato leaders set to agree an overhaul of the alliance’s strategy for defending eastern Europe from Moscow.
The US will establish a permanent headquarters for its 5th Army Corps in Poland, send 5,000 additional troops to Romania and increase rotational deployments in the Baltic states, Biden said, as part of efforts to stiffen Nato’s first line of defenses against possible attack.
Two squadrons of US F-35 fighter aircraft will be sent to the UK, Biden added, in addition to stationing air defense systems in Italy and Germany and increasing the number of US naval destroyers to Spain to six from four.
The new deployments will be in addition to the more than 100,000 US troops currently stationed in Europe, which had already increased by about 20,000 since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine four months ago.
Other NATO states are expected to announce increases in defense spending and additional deployments at the summit in Madrid, as well as agreeing additional military support for Ukraine. Nato will also formally invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, after Turkey dropped its veto on their membership applications late on Tuesday.
Biden said the summit was “history-making” and that the additional US deployments would “send an unmistakable message that Nato is strong and united”.
“In a moment where [Russia’s President Vladimir] Putin has shattered peace in Europe and attacked the very tenets of the rule-based order, the United States and our allies are stepping up,” Biden said. “The steps we’re taking during this summit are going to further augment our collective strength.”
The scale of Russia’s invasion, which has killed thousands and displaced about a quarter of Ukraine’s population, forced Nato officials and western leaders to abandon their existing plans for defending the eastern flank of the alliance which are now deemed insufficient to resist an attack.
“The US will enhance our force posture in Europe, and respond to the changed security environment to defend every inch of allied territory,” Biden said.
The US deployments come as Nato prepares to agree new defense plans that will increase more than seven-fold the number of troops on high alert to respond to an invasion to more than 300,000 from 40,000 currently.
That comes in response to demands from Baltic countries and other eastern Nato allies for more permanent, larger and better equipped forces to defend them from Russia.
“This will be a historic and transformative summit for our alliance,” Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday morning. “We meet in the midst of the most serious security crisis we have faced since the second world war.”
“The biggest overhaul [of] our collective defense since the end of the cold war will be agreed at this summit,” he added.