John Kirby: Russia continues to build up military capabilities near Ukraine's borders
Not only troops, but also additional equipment are being brought to the border regions, a US Defense Department spokesman has said.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin continues to send additional military units to the Ukrainian border, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told a news conference.
U.S. and European leaders still do not know whether Putin will decide to invade Ukraine. Kirby urged the Russian leader to ease tensions by withdrawing troops on Russian territory as well as troops that are in Belarus – also near the border with Ukraine.
Kirby said the deployment of more than 100,000 Russian troops is not aimed directly against NATO members on the eastern flank of the alliance. However, it’s not just about the number of troops, but also about the military assets that are being moved into the region.
“Right now we cannot say with certainty whether Putin has made a final decision in one form or another, and if he has, what is it? Every day he expands his capabilities militarily. This means not only infantry or tracked vehicles, but also artillery and long-range weapons, air and missile defense, and special operations forces. It has a full complement at its disposal, and it continues to grow every day, including in the last two days.” – Kirby said.
The U.S. is responding by deploying troops of its own. Kirby said the 1,000-strong Stryker armored squadron to Romania is complete, as is the transfer of the 18th Airborne Corps headquarters to Germany. “Several hundred” soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division have been moved to Poland from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. About 1,700 troops will be deployed to Poland in the coming days. U.S. troops are arriving on the ground and settling in, Kirby said.
“I think you’ll see them doing exercises with their partners in Romania and Poland after that,” he said.
Kirby said, however, that despite all the Russian deployments near Ukraine’s borders, there is still time and space for diplomatic work.
“We still believe there is a diplomatic path and it can and should be pursued. Putin can easily reduce tensions by simply removing some of that power presence, which is certainly in his power.”