US President Joe Biden to send 2,000 troops to Europe amid stalled talks with Russia over Ukraine
Latest satellite pictures show Russian tanks just 200 miles from Kyiv, as Europe Editor James Mates reports
US president, Joe Biden, is sending 2,000 troops to Poland and Germany this week and moving roughly 1,000 Germany-based soldiers to Romania amid stalled talks with Russia over a growing military presence on the border of Ukraine.
The Pentagon has already put 8,500 troops on heightened alert for possible deployment to Europe.
Mr Biden's move underscores growing fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin is poised to invade Ukraine with more than 100,000 troops massed at the border.
But Russia has repeatedly said it has no intention of initiating conflict and is willing to continue diplomatic efforts.
Europe Editor James Mates breaks down what Wednesday's developments mean
Washington and Moscow have been at loggerheads over Ukraine, with little sign of a diplomatic path forward.
But documents leaked to a Spanish newspaper on Tuesday suggest the US is prepared to enter into an agreement with Russia over missile deployments in Europe in order to ease tensions if Moscow steps back from the brink in Ukraine.
Spanish daily El Pais published two documents purported to be written replies from the United States and Nato last week to Russia’s proposals for a new security arrangement in Europe.
The US State department declined to comment on them while Nato said that it never comments on “alleged leaks”.
Fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine have mounted in recent months, after Mr Putin deployed more than 100,000 troops to areas near Ukraine’s borders, including in neighbouring Belarus, backed by tanks, artillery, helicopters and warplanes.
In a bid to ease tensions, Boris Johnson spoke to Mr Putin on Wednesday and reiterated his commitment to defending Ukraine sovereignty, as he expressed "deep concern" about the Kremlin's "hostile activity" at the border.
"The prime minister stressed that any further Russian incursion into Ukrainian territory would be a tragic miscalculation," a Downing Street spokesperson said. “The prime minister underscored that, under Nato’s open door policy, all European democracies have a right to aspire to Nato membership. This right fully applies to Ukraine."
The two leaders agreed to proceed in a spirit of co-operation similar to that seen around other major diplomatic issues such as the Iran nuclear deal and the Afghanistan crisis, the spokesperson added.
Earlier on Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss stressed the UK’s “unwavering” support for Ukraine on a call with the her Ukrainian counterpart, and also confirmed she would travel to Moscow “shortly” in a bid to quell tensions.
No 10 has insisted “our strong preference remains that Vladimir Putin pursues diplomatic efforts” to dial down threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty.
On a visit to Ukraine on Tuesday, Mr Johnson warned Russia that the UK will hit Moscow with sanctions the “moment the first Russian toecap crosses further into Ukrainian territory".
Later on Tuesday, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that the UK, US and allies have ignored Russia’s top security demands, but added that Moscow remains open to more talks with the West.
Among his demands, Mr Putin wants Nato to stop taking in any new members and withdraw its troops and equipment from countries that joined the alliance since 1997; almost half its ranks.
However, non-Nato members, such as Russia, cannot stop other countries from joining the alliance.
Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, and Ms Truss agreed “responding decisively and strongly to the Kremlin now will help deter future as well as present Russian aggression”, a Foreign Office spokesperson said after they spoke on Wednesday.
They said: “Both agreed that European and Nato allies need to present a robust and united front to Russia.”
At a Nato summit in 2008, Nato leaders said that they welcomed “Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in Nato” adding: “We agreed today that these countries will become members of Nato.”
Russia invaded Georgia later that year, and in 2014 annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Around 14,000 people have been killed in the conflict that still simmers in eastern Ukraine. Their membership plans have been on hold for years, although Nato continues to support them and promote reforms.