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NATO sends military resources east after Ireland complains of Russian drills

Ukraine Russia
Posted at 8:08 AM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-24 08:08:40-05

BRUSSELS — NATO says it's putting extra forces on standby and sending more ships and fighter jets to eastern Europe as Russia continues its troop build-up near Ukraine.

NATO says Denmark is sending a frigate to the Baltic Sea and deploying F-16 war planes to Lithuania. Spain is sending ships to join NATO's standing maritime force and considering sending fighter jets to Bulgaria. France stands ready to send troops to Romania.

The move comes as Ireland warned that planned Russian war games off the Irish coast are not welcome.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers are meeting to put on a fresh display of unity amid concern about divisions within the 27-nation bloc over how best to handle Russia.

On Sunday, the State Department ordered the families of all American personnel and at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to leave the country. They're also allowing non-essential staff to leave Ukraine.

The State Department stressed that the Kyiv embassy will remain open and that the departure of families and some non-essential personnel is not an evacuation.

At the same time, officials are warning all Americans against traveling to Ukraine and Russia, pointing in part to tensions between those two countries and, in Russia, because of potential harassment of U.S. citizens.

The moves come after top diplomats from the U.S. and Russia met last Friday in Geneva. Following that meeting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be "met with a severe and a united response."

When asked about the potential for a Russian invasion of Ukraine at a press conference last Wednesday, President Joe Biden said NATO could get involved if things got violent.

"If there is something that is where there's Russian forces crossing the border, killing Ukrainian fighters, et cetera, I think that changes everything," Biden said. "But it depends on what he does, to what extent we'll get total unity on the NATO front."

In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pushed back, saying that any invasion by Russia should elicit a strong response from NATO allies.

"There are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties," Zelensky said.

U.S.-Russian talks earlier this month proved largely fruitless. Russia said it would not draw down troops at the Ukrainian border if the U.S. did not remove its forces from Eastern Europe or offer a guarantee that Ukraine would not be extended an invitation to join NATO in the future. U.S. diplomats rebuffed both requests.