The Biden administration is taking aggressive action, as well as precautions, as Russia shows no sign of reducing its troop presence along the border with Ukraine and the threat of an invasion remains high.
Monday afternoon, the Pentagon announced it was placing about 8,500 troops on 'heightened alert' for possible deployment to bolster NATO forces amid the ongoing military tension. The U.S. is already supplying $200 million in ammunition and other lethal aid to Ukraine, under an executive order signed by President Biden in December.
The decision to put U.S. service members on standby comes as Republican members of Congress continue to press President Biden to stand up to Russian President Putin.
"He's got to get a backbone," said Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) at a news conference last week, "he's got to quit appeasing Putin, it hasn't worked."
Of course, former President Trump was also accused, by Democrats, of being too deferential to Putin.
"Putin is not somebody who is going to deal with compassion and kindness," said Sen. James Lankford in an interview, "it has to be strength met with strength, and currently we're not meeting strength with strength."
But that was last week, and now the administration is moving more aggressively.
"We have been consulting with allies on deployments and refining plans for all scenarios," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. "We’ve always said we would reinforce our allies on the eastern flank."
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) was among the Senators leading the call last week for more aggressive action, including immediate sanctions on Russia. In a statement Monday, Inhofe said:
“What we’re seeing from Putin on the Ukraine border is all too predictable. While I urge the administration to do more to support Ukraine’s defenses and deter further Russian aggression, I continue to call for bolstering the Eastern flank of NATO to reassure our allies that we support their territorial integrity as well. President Biden often likes to talk of America’s “sacred obligation” to NATO— now he needs to show he’s committed to it. At the same time, he must help Ukrainians defend themselves and impose costs on Russia, including by sending additional defense aid to Ukraine and implementing the statutory sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.”
The administration has not moved to reimpose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, but it is beginning to move Americans out of harm's way.
On Sunday, the U.S. State Department ordered family members of U.S. Embassy staff in Kiev to leave the country and advised private U.S. citizens and non-essential Embassy personnel to do the same.
"Our recommendation is that U.S. citizens currently in Ukraine consider departing now," said Psaki, "using commercial other privately available transportation options."