President Biden on Tuesday directed additional U.S. troops to NATO’s eastern flank as Russia moved a step closer toward a large-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“As Russia contemplates its next move we have our next move prepared as well,” Biden told reporters at the White House.  

“Today in response to Russian admission that it will not withdraw its forces from Belarus, I have authorized additional movements of U.S. forces and equipment already stationed in Europe to strengthen our Baltic allies, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.” 

Washington has already deployed or repositioned some 6,000 U.S. forces to Germany, Poland and Romania near the countries’ borders with Ukraine as Russia has gathered an estimated 190,000 troops near its border with the former soviet country and in Belarus.  

Western nations fear Moscow may soon move to invade Ukraine in a large-scale attack, a concern amplified by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognizing two separatist regions of Ukraine - the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic - as independent and ordering troops to the area. 

Belarus also said on Monday that the withdrawal of Russian troops from its territory, forces there under the claim of joint war games between the two countries, would depend to a large extent on NATO pulling back its forces. 

“He is setting up a rationale to take more territory by force, in my view,” Biden said of Putin in remarks from the East Room. “This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.” 

Biden did not say how many troops would be sent to the three Baltic nations or where they would be repositioned from, but said it was “totally defensive moves on our part” and that United States has “no intention of fighting Russia.” 

“We want to send an unmistakable message that the United States together with our allies will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made to NATO,” he said, adding that Washington will also continue to provide defensive assistance to Ukraine. 

In the same speech, Biden announced that the U.S. would also sanction Russian sovereign debt and Russian elites as well as their family members. 

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