There are currently 100,000 U.S. troops in Europe, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed this week.
During a news conference with Germany’s minister of foreign affairs on Thursday and during a news conference with Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, Stoltenberg confirmed the number of U.S. troops in Europe amid the war in Ukraine.
“We are reinforcing our collective defense. Hundreds of thousands of troops on heightened alert—100,000 U.S. troops in Europe,” he said Wednesday, according to a Department of Defense transcript. “And then 40,000 troops under the NATO command … the most in the eastern part of the alliance supported by naval and air forces.”
On Thursday, Stoltenberg said that troop buildup is meant to send “a clear message to Moscow that an attack on one ally will trigger a response from the whole alliance” and that “deterrence of defense is not about provoking a conflict but prevents a conflict. It’s about preserving peace.”
Military publication Stars and Stripes, citing U.S. European Command records, reported that the last time the troop levels were this high in Europe was in 2005. As of January 2022, there were about 80,000 troops stationed across Europe, the records show.
Citing those records, the publication noted that there were nearly 350,000 American troops in Europe in 1987, but after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the United States began a steady drawdown of forces from the continent. Before that, there were nearly 3 million U.S. troops in Europe in 1945 toward the end of World War II.
Starting last month, President Joe Biden ordered more U.S. troops to Europe amid heightened tensions after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The United States has also sent more troops to NATO countries that share a border with Russia and Ukraine, including Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia.
The White House, meanwhile, said this week that Biden will travel to Brussels, Belgium, to attend an “extraordinary summit” convened by NATO on March 24.
Biden will “discuss ongoing deterrence and defense efforts in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine, as well as to reaffirm our ironclad commitment to our NATO allies,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked NATO to set up a no-fly zone over Ukraine, top U.S. officials have rejected the proposal.
“So what this really means is that in order to control the skies, you have to shut down the air defenses there on the ground,” Austin, the U.S. Defense secretary, told reporters in Slovakia on Thursday. “And some of those air defense systems are in Russia and so, again, there’s no easy or simple way to do this. There’s no such thing as a no-fly zone lite. A no-fly zone means you’re in a conflict with Russia. So from a U.S. perspective, we’re, again, our position remains that we’re not going to do that,” he added.