WARSAW (Dispatches) – The first batch of American troops have been deployed in Eastern Europe even after the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden said Washington was no longer calling what it deems a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine “imminent.”
A small plane carrying what a Polish military source said were U.S. chain of command personnel landed in the morning at Rzeszow-Jasionka airport as preparations continued at the base, which is near Poland’s border with Ukraine.
TV footage showed temporary accommodation being prepared at the G2A Arena in the nearby town of Jasionka, while workers could be seen building a fence around the venue.
A day earlier, the U.S. military’s European Command announced in a statement that the first group of American troops, tasked with reinforcing NATO allies amid an alleged Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s border, arrived in Germany.
“Soldiers from the 18th Airborne Corps arrived in Wiesbaden today,” a spokesperson for the command said on Friday in reference to the city in the western German state of Hesse.
“These are the first of 2,000 soldiers to arrive in Europe following the Pentagon’s announcement of additional forces moving from the United States to Europe in support of our NATO allies,” the statement said.
The troops’ deployment came as the U.S. administration said it was no longer using the word “imminent” to describe a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, backing away from an assessment U.S. officials had repeatedly voiced in recent days.
At a press briefing on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced the decision and said the use of “imminent” was sending out a message U.S. officials were not intending to send.
Russia and the U.S.-led NATO have recently been at odds over Ukraine. Western countries accuse Russia of preparing for an invasion of Ukraine by amassing 100,000 troops and armaments near the border with that country. Rejecting the allegation, Moscow says the troop build-up is defensive as NATO has increased its activity near Russian borders.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the West for worsening the crisis over Ukraine, also hitting out at the international media for exacerbating the conflict.
“Unfortunately, the West until now has not made any contribution to resolving this issue. I can say they are only making things worse,” Turkish media quoted Erdogan as saying on Friday.
During an interview with reporters on his flight back from Kiev on Thursday, the Turkish leader also slammed Biden’s stance on the crisis, saying he “has not yet been able to demonstrate a positive approach.”
Erdogan said no European leader had been able to resolve the issue, adding that Europe was suffering from “serious issues at the leadership level” after the departure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
He met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday and repeated Turkey’s offer to mediate the crisis between Kiev and Moscow, which Zelenskiy welcomed. Erdogan also proposed to host a summit between Ukrainian and Russian leaders.