Given the manner in which President Joe Biden has routinely stepped up U.S. assistance to Ukraine in its defense against the Russian invasion, there are very real and legitimate concerns that Biden may soon order U.S. forces to deploy to Ukraine and directly engage in combat operations against Russian forces.
Yet another potentially big step in that direction was made by Biden on Thursday when he took executive action to authorize the activation of thousands of military Reserve members to help bolster the U.S. military's support of Ukraine, Breitbart reported.
Those activated reservists will reportedly be part of U.S. European Command's Operation Atlantic Resolve, which began in 2014 and increased the presence of U.S. forces deployed in Eastern Europe in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea and backing of separatist fighters in Eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region.
In a "Message to Congress" to announce his executive action, President Biden said, "I am providing notice that I have authorized the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the Coast Guard when it is not operating as a service in the Department of the Navy, to order to active duty members and units of the Selected Reserve and appropriately designated Individual Ready Reserve members, without the consent of the member concerned."
"Reserve mobilizations under this authorization are not to exceed 3,000 total members at any one time, of whom not more than 450 may be members of the Individual Ready Reserve," he added. "These Reserve Component forces are to augment the active forces for Operation Atlantic Resolve to enhance the United States’ ability to sustain its heightened level of presence and operations in support of United States European Command."
Attached to that message to Congress was the actual executive action itself, which was titled "Ordering the Selected Reserve and Certain Members of the Individual Ready Reserve of the Armed Forces to Active Duty."
Citing certain lawful authorities, Biden said, "I hereby determine that it is necessary to augment the active Armed Forces of the United States for the effective conduct of Operation Atlantic Resolve in and around the United States European Command’s area of responsibility."
He proceeded to reiterate his authorization for the relevant secretaries to "order to active duty any units, and any individual members not assigned to a unit organized to serve as a unit of the Selected Reserve, or any member in the Individual Ready Reserve mobilization category and designated as essential under regulations prescribed by the Secretary concerned, not to exceed 3,000 total members at any one time, of whom not more than 450 may be members of the Individual Ready Reserve, as they deem necessary, and to terminate the service of those units and members ordered to active duty."
The Department of Defense, understandably so, held a briefing Thursday afternoon that included the Pentagon press secretary, Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, along with the Joint Staff J-3 director of operations, Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, to field questions about President Biden's executive action.
Ryder opened by saying the briefing was intended to "provide some information on the White House's executive order being announced today regarding Operation Atlantic Resolve, how this action enables the U.S. to better support and sustain DOD's enhanced presence and level of operations in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility over the long term."
Sims explained that in addition to the mobilization of up to 3,000 reservists to active duty, "Operation Atlantic Resolve will be designated as a contingency operation. This new designation benefits troops and families with increases in authorities, entitlements, and access to reserve component forces and personnel."
This was deemed necessary to "enable the department to better support and sustain its enhanced presence and level of operations," and also "reaffirms the unwavering support and commitment to the defense of NATO's eastern flank in wake of Russia's illegal and unprovoked war on Ukraine."
Though Gen. Sims was rather vague and sparse with details in his explanation of how President Biden's order would translate in reality, Gen. Ryder later clarified that -- at least for now -- the activated reservists would serve as "replacements" for active duty forces already deployed in the operation who could now rotate out instead of being sent over in addition to those who are already there.
"So the way to think about it is what it does is it provides additional access to reserve component forces. So you're now able to call on Guard or reserve forces to come support Atlantic Resolve, and as I just highlighted, be entitled to the same kind of benefits as their active duty counterparts," he said. "So -- it's not additional forces, it's unlocking additional forces for use in support of this operation, if that makes sense."