A report by CBS News this past week shows the Biden administration has about 4,700 U.S. troops with the 101st Airborne Division near the Ukraine border in Romania holding live fire exercises with the NATO ally, practicing ground and air assaults in preparation for invading Ukraine and fighting Russian forces there.
The war game comes at the same time that NATO is holding a long-planned nuclear war exercise in Europe as concerns about a wider war increase.
Earlier this week British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace made an emergency flight to Washington where he met with Biden officials about the war in Ukraine.
Following that visit a sudden uptick in contact between Russia and NATO took place this week, with two phone calls (Friday and Sunday) between Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Shoigu also spoke to NATO defense chiefs in the UK, France and Turkey on Sunday (excerpt via Reuters):
Moscow provided no details on the conversation with Austin, which came after the two men spoke on Friday for the first time since May. Its readouts on the other calls said Shoigu had said the situation in Ukraine was worsening.
“They discussed the situation in Ukraine which is rapidly deteriorating,” the Russian defence ministry said of Shoigu’s call with French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu. “It is trending towards further uncontrolled escalation.”
Other reports on the calls say Shoigu warned of a dirty bomb attack by Ukraine. That warning is being taken as Russian propaganda laying the groundwork for a Russian false flag attack.
“This reads like Russian false flag groundwork. Troubling that it’s happening at the defense minister level," one military expert said after Sergei Shoigu expressed "concerns about possible provocations by Ukraine with the use of a "dirty bomb." https://t.co/HLeJQh94N2
— Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (@RFERL) October 23, 2022
After Russian defense minister Shoigu claimed Ukraine was preparing to use a “dirty bomb,” the NSC spokesperson rejects his “transparently false allegations.” “The world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation,” Adrienne Watson says.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) October 23, 2022
CBS reporter Charlie D’Agata embedded with the 101st Airborne Division in Romania for the exercises and also accompanied officers on a helicopter flight over the Black Sea coast.
Brigadier General John Lubas, the division’s Deputy Commander, told D’Agata on camera this is a “combat deployment”.
Mihail Kogălniceanu, Romania — The U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division has been deployed to Europe for the first time in almost 80 years amid soaring tension between Russia and the American-led NATO military alliance. The light infantry unit, nicknamed the “Screaming Eagles,” is trained to deploy on any battlefield in the world within hours, ready to fight.
CBS News joined the division’s Deputy Commander, Brigadier General John Lubas, and Colonel Edwin Matthaidess, Commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, on a Black Hawk helicopter for the hour-long ride to the very edge of NATO territory — only around three miles from Romania’s border with Ukraine.
…”We’re ready to defend every inch of NATO soil,” Lubas told CBS News. “We bring a unique capability, from our air assault capability… We’re a light infantry force, but again, we bring that mobility with us, for our aircraft and air assaults.”
Skirting northward along Romania’s Black Sea coast, the Black Hawk eventually touched down at a forward operating site where U.S. and Romanian troops were pounding targets during a joint ground and air assault exercise.
The tank rounds and artillery fire were real. The drill was meant to recreate the battles Ukraine’s forces are fighting every day against Russian troops, just across the border. The war games so close to that border are a clear message to Russia and to America’s NATO allies, that the U.S. Army is here.
..The “Screaming Eagles” commanders told CBS News repeatedly that they are always “ready to fight tonight,” and while they’re there to defend NATO territory, if the fighting escalates or there’s any attack on NATO, they’re fully prepared to cross the border into Ukraine.
This version has different language and the comment by Gen. Lubas on ‘combat deployment’:
D’Agata described the war games as, “A drill designed to replicate the exact battle conditions in Ukraine”
Gen. Lubas, “Yeah. this is not a training deployment, this is a combat deployment for us. We understand that we need to be ready to fight tonight depending on how the situation escalates across the border.”
HISTORIC DEPLOYMENT: CBS News has been given exclusive access to the Army’s 101st Airborne Division as they are deployed to Europe for the first time since the last World War. They are now the closest U.S. forces to the fight in Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/61sAvrCeVf
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) October 21, 2022
In this update on Sunday, D’Agata included a clip of Lubas saying he was ready to deploy to the frontlines in Ukraine 250 miles away, “We’re about two-hundred and fifty miles from the front line of Russian troops. Uh, and the way we are dispersed right now we are ready to transition from our current locations where we’re currently at to combat operations on order.”
There are currently 100,000 U.S. troops supporting NATO allies in countries that border Ukraine. CBS News' @charliecbs reports from Romania, where the Army's 101st Airborne Division makes a historic deployment—the first time it's headquartered in Europe since World War II. pic.twitter.com/0IxRYmDt0u
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) October 23, 2022
D’Agata noted the 101st has moved its headquarters to Romania, the first time their HQ has been stationed in Europe since World War Two.