The US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, and General Mark Milley, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reiterated this Friday the threat posed by the concentration on the Ukraine border of 130,000 Russian forces. In addition, they have warned that, despite the fact that they do not know if the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has decided to invade the neighboring country, “now he clearly has the capacity [militar] to do it”, Austin has declared to the journalists who have followed the appearance of both in the Pentagon. If Russia ultimately chooses to attack, General Milley has stressed, the action would have a “horrible” outcome resulting in “significant casualties.” The senior officer compared the tense situation in Eastern Europe to the Cold War.
It is the umpteenth warning issued by Washington, hours after President Joe Biden pointed out the possibility of an invasion of Ukraine by Kremlin troops in February. As Russia accumulates forces and weapons on the post-Soviet borders (in Ukraine and in Belarus, the latter a country allied with Moscow), the possibility of an open conflict looms more grimly over the Joe Biden Administration, which faces numerous obstacles. at home. The diplomatic path between the two countries is closing day by day, especially after the refusal of Washington and its NATO allies to abandon the expansion plans on the central European flank, a threat in the eyes of the Kremlin.
Moscow had requested written guarantees for the withdrawal of NATO troops from Eastern Europe, as well as a veto on Ukraine’s entry into the Alliance. It has not obtained any of those demands, so a possible military action is gaining strength, especially after today’s statement from the Pentagon. “Although we do not think that President Putin has made a definitive decision about using these forces against Ukraine, we believe that he is now in a position to do so,” Austin stressed.
“There are multiple options available, including the seizure of significant cities and territories, but also coercive acts and provocative political acts such as recognition of the break-up of territories,” Austin said, referring to the Kremlin’s threat to recognize the territory’s independence. pro-Russian separatist from Donbas, in eastern Ukraine, which rebelled against Kiev in 2014, a few weeks after the annexation of Crimea by the Kremlin, and where a entrenched war is taking place that has claimed 14,000 deaths and one and a half million wounded, in addition to thousands of internally displaced persons.
Given the type of forces that Moscow has deployed on the border, General Milley has warned, any action against Ukraine “would result in a significant number of casualties (…) You can imagine how that would end up in densely populated urban areas, on highways… It would be horrible, absolutely horrible.”
The US Defense Minister has pointed out that Washington will closely monitor any act or attempt at disinformation by Moscow to counter any pretext to attack Ukraine. General Milley elaborated on the idea that the great Russian deployment goes beyond the accumulation of ground, air and naval forces and includes cyber warfare and logistics units.
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Austin reiterated the US commitment to help Ukraine defend itself against hypothetical foreign aggression, even providing Kiev with additional anti-tank weapons. Caught in the middle of the Russian-American train wreck, Ukrainian authorities have so far maintained a cautious stance, on the lookout, so as not to trigger a response from their eastern neighbor.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.