TODAY   |  April 23, 2014

US sends troops to Eastern Europe

There is new tension in the Ukraine crisis: The U.S. military is sending Russia a strong message Wednesday morning by taking part in military exercises in Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, an American reporter is being held in eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian militias. NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel reports.

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>>> there is new tension tied to the crisis in ukraine . the u.s. military sending russia a strong message this morning by taking part in military exercises in eastern europe . nbc's chief foreign correspondent richard engel is here with more. good morning.

>> good morning, natalie. a strong message, but will it be enough? a truce has been in place for about a week to try and deescalate tension. the truce called for militias to disarm in ukraine , but that never happened, and now that truce could collapse. the ukrainian government said the pro-russian militias still occupying buildings in eastern ukraine will soon be targeted again. rooted out by renewed counterterrorist operations. if that happens, a truce with moscow would soon be over. the new confidence from ukraine to take on the militias followed a visit to kiev by vice president joe biden .

>> we call on russia to stop supporting men hiding behind masks and unmarked uniforms, sewing unrest in eastern ukraine .

>> reporter: in what sounded like the strongest warning yet, russia 's foreign minister said moscow considers an attack on russians in ukraine to be an attack on russia itself. telling russian tv on wednesday, if we are attacked, we would certainly respond. russia has the fire power to respond quickly and overwhelmingly, with 40,000 troops on the ukrainian border. the u.s. is making a military move of its own, but a very small one. the pentagon is sending 600 u.s. soldiers for training and exercises in eastern europe , starting in poland, followed by lithuania, latvia, and estonia. and u.s. officials, including john kerry , are once again talking about the cold war .

>> during the cold war , it was easier than it is today. simpler, is maybe a way to put it.

>> and an american film maker has been taken into custody by one of those pro-russian militias. some of those militias can be quite anti-american. matt, natalie, back to you.

>> richard engel , thanks so much.