WASHINGTON: The US put 8,500 American troops on high alert for possible deployment in eastern Europe amid tensions with Russia over Ukraine even as the Biden administration faced attacks at home, questioning the necessity of yet another prospective foreign intervention amid many domestic crises. Amid an escalating diplomatic stand-off over Ukraine, the Pentagon said defence secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 US troops on “heightened preparedness to deploy” to eastern Europe in case Nato activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia. Troops on high alert included additional brigade combat teams, logistics personnel, medical support, aviation support, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and the action was aimed a “proving how seriously the US takes our commitment to Nato and to the Article Five commitment inside Nato,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, referring to the alliance’s commitment to collective defence. The development came amid widespread domestic criticism, particularly from Trumpbacking Republicans, who questioned Biden’s motives and invoked his son’s alleged business dealing in Ukraine. “Our elites were wrong. . . about Afghanistan. . . But maybe they’re right about sacrificing our sons and daughters for Ukraine? No. It’s the same old BS (bulls***t) in a new package,” writer JD Vance, who is running for the US Senate, tweeted. Some liberals also questioned what they saw as American hawkishness over Ukraine and its desire to defend a world order when the US’ own ability to address its domestic crises was in doubt. Russia, which has denied planning any kind of invasion but has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine, wants the US and Nato allies to stop roping in former Soviet Republics, including Ukraine, into Nato, seeing it as a security threat. On Tuesday, the US state department pushed back at the Russian narrative of being surrounded by Nato, arguing that “Russia has land borders with 14 nations. Only five of them are Nato members. ” As the military posturing continued, Biden held a video call with European leaders and Nato head on Monday evening, hoping to signal that Western nations were united and that the costs of any military aggression would be severe. French President Macron said: “If there is aggression, there will be retaliation and the cost will be very high. ” In the UK, PM Boris Johnson told parliament there was agreement among European leaders to “respond in unison to any attack on Ukraine”. “We’ve a hard-hitting package of sanctions ready to go. ” However, despite the looming threat, Ukraine’s leaders sought to reassure the nation that an invasion from Russia was not imminent, even as they acknowledged the threat is real. President Volodymyr Zelensky said “the situation is under control” and that “there was no reason to panic. ” Defence minister Oleksii Reznikov said that “as of today, there are no grounds to believe” that Russia is preparing to invade imminently, noting that its troops have not formed what he called a battle group that could force its way through the border. (With inputs from agencies)

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