The U.S. military’s presence in Europe is about to get a whole lot bigger as fears grow over an unhinged Vladimir Putin.
President Joe Biden announced the news at a NATO summit in Madrid on Wednesday, pointing the finger directly at the Russian leader who has repeatedly claimed NATO expansion is to blame for his bloody onslaught against Ukraine.
“In a moment where Putin has shattered peace in Europe and attacked the very, very tenets of the rule-based order of the United States and our allies—we’re stepping up,” Biden said.
The U.S. military will now have permanent headquarters for the U.S. 5th Army Corps in Poland; will deploy an additional rotational combat brigade to Romania; “enhance” rotational deployments to the Baltics (where there will be a “persistent, heel-to-toe presence in the region”); deploy two more Navy destroyers to Spain; and two additional F-35 squadrons to the United Kingdom, according to the White House.
The news is not expected to go over well in Moscow, where the Kremlin has repeatedly claimed U.S and NATO moves in Eastern Europe are an existential threat to Russia.
Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, told reporters in Moscow the country would respond with “compensatory measures.”
“I think that those who propose solutions of this kind are under the illusion that Russia can be intimidated or somehow restrained,” he said, adding that the move “will not succeed.”
He said the “risks will rise” in areas that see a boost in U.S. military presence.
“We have the capabilities and resources, security will be 100 percent guaranteed,” he said.
While Putin has claimed his war against Ukraine was necessary to stop NATO, Western leaders say his plan backfired spectacularly, only giving alliance members more resolve and prompting other countries to rush to join (particularly Sweden and Finland).
“He is getting the opposite of what he wants. He wants less NATO, President Putin is getting more NATO,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday alongside Western leaders in Madrid.
The comments came as Russian forces stepped up their attacks on Ukraine, just hours after prompting international condemnation for an airstrike on a Ukrainian shopping center that killed at least 20.
Putin’s troops unleashed 10 missiles on a residential area in the Mykolaiv region and killed at least four people there Wednesday morning, according to Ukrainian authorities.
Anna Zamazeyeva, the head of the Mykolaiv regional council, said several residents were still trapped beneath the rubble of the bombed apartment building.
“The latest terrorist attack—the city of Mykolaiv has been struck with missiles. At least 10 missiles in a half hour,” Zamazeyeva wrote in a statement on Telegram, describing it as a “direct hit” on an apartment building.
“Mykolaiv is being ‘wiped off the face of the earth’ like Mariupol, Volnovakha and other cities? What are we waiting for, the international community?” she wrote.
In Dnipr, a 6-year-old child was among seven injured in a similar strike, authorities there said.
The latest attacks came as many were still reeling from civilian deaths reported a day earlier.
Mykola Kuleba, Ukraine’s ombudsman for children’s rights, shared a brutal photograph on social media of one of the victims of a Russian strike on the city of Ochakiv on Tuesday.
“This 6-year-old girl was sleeping peacefully when the Russians shelled Ochakiv,” he wrote. “Her body was found under the rubble. This photo should be everywhere.”