The U.S. military has nearly 80,000 troops on average on rotational or permanent orders in Europe.
Now, it’s sending thousands more to support those units. About 3,000 combat troops are on their way to Poland to join 1,700 already assembling there in a demonstration of American commitment to NATO allies. Their mission will be to train and provide deterrence — but not to engage in combat in Ukraine.
Experts say allies have made NATO’s northeastern flank their strategic focus, leaving the southeastern flank potentially vulnerable. There remain gaps on the Black Sea, according to Pettyjohn.
“You can see that there’s a significant lag, and it would take weeks to get [equipment and troops] from the prepositioned sites in the northeast to the south because, I think, the rail network is a little dicier to Romania and Bulgaria than in Northern Europe,” she said. “NATO could easily bring air power and maritime forces … but it’s much harder for the ground forces.”
If a Russian invasion of Ukraine spills over into a broader conflict, southeastern Europe is where “entanglement and inadvertent escalation could happen,” she said. It’s unlikely Russia intends to attack Romania, but what if it seizes Ukrainian territory adjacent to Crimea, which sits on the Black Sea with Romania?
Read the full story and more from Defense News.