Biden says 3,000 Reserve troops can be sent to Europe to support NATO, Ukraine
Stars and Stripes July 13, 2023
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden signed an executive order Thursday that makes as many as 3,000 American reservists available to go to Europe in support of NATO efforts amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The purpose of the order, Biden said, is to better support Operation Atlantic Resolve, a mission that launched almost a decade ago after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
“Since 2014, U.S. European Command has provided combat-credible forces for rotational deployment to Europe … to demonstrate good commitment to NATO,” Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, director of operations for the Joint Staff, told reporters Thursday. “This reaffirms the unwavering support and commitment to the defense of NATO’s eastern flank in wake of Russia’s illegal, unprovoked war on Ukraine.”
In Biden’s order, he said the move making thousands of Reserve troops available is needed to back up American forces already involved in the defensive operation.
“Reserve mobilizations under this authorization are not to exceed 3,000 total members at any one time, of whom not more than 450 may be members of the Individual Ready Reserve,” Biden said in a letter informing Congress of his order. “These Reserve component forces are to augment the active forces … to enhance the United States’ ability to sustain its heightened level of presence and operations.”
The Pentagon stressed the order doesn’t simply send 3,000 more troops to Europe, but rather it only makes reservists available to go if EUCOM decides they’re needed. For example, Sims said commanders in Europe might decide a Reserve unit is better suited to handle certain tasks than active-duty troops who are already there.
Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the United States had put thousands of additional American troops in areas neighboring, or near, Ukraine — such as Germany, Poland and Romania — to support NATO’s eastern flank. Biden’s administration has also given Ukraine tens of billions of dollars in military aid at the same time, including an $800 million package last week.
“The United States European Command is preparing to use new authorities in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, in continuation of U.S. commitment to NATO collective security, peace and stability,” Navy Capt. Bill Speaks, a spokesman for U.S. European Command, said Thursday. “This will not change current force posture levels in Europe.”
The Pentagon also said Atlantic Resolve is now being designated as a “contingency operation,” which is a move to add operational flexibility and troop benefits.
“It unlocks capabilities and authorities that enables us to provide better support,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman. “This includes things like … personnel related entitlements that give activated reservists the same benefits as active-component personnel.”
Biden’s order comes after he met this week with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the NATO summit in Lithuania. During the summit, he and other NATO leaders agreed to expedite Ukrainian membership and said Kyiv will receive an invitation once certain conditions are met, such as improved defense standards and equipment.
“Ukraine's future lies at NATO," Biden said Wednesday at the conference, where the United States and G7 nations Japan, Canada, Germany, France, Britain and Italy issued a joint declaration of support for Ukraine. “We are going to help Ukraine build a strong capable defense across land, air and sea."