President Biden flexed America’s military power in hopes of deterring a Russian invasion of Ukraine with his announcement this week that 3,000 U.S. troops were heading to Eastern Europe.
But Mr. Biden is not readying for war with Russia. The troops will be shoring up NATO countries, not defending Ukraine itself — which is not a member of the alliance — as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia builds up military forces near the borders of its neighbor.
And lest there be any misunderstanding, Mr. Biden has repeatedly made clear that he has no intention of sending U.S. troops to Ukraine. During national security crises, presidents often issue the cryptic warning that “all options are on the table.” But Mr. Biden pointedly said in early December that the military option was “not on the table.”
Even among those who support Mr. Biden’s decision to send troops to NATO’s eastern flank, there is growing concern about the possibility of deadly accidents or miscalculations.
“There is an intentional war where we would choose to fight Russia, and I think that is just completely off the table,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a Russia expert with the Center for a New American Security who advised the Biden transition team. “And then there is the risk of unintended escalation.”
Wanted or not, she added, “the risk of direct confrontation with Russia now is higher than at any time since the Cold War.”
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