NATO says Russia continues to add troops to Ukraine’s buildup
NATO on Wednesday accused Russia of sending more troops for a massive military build-up around Ukraine, even as Moscow said it was withdrawing its forces and open to diplomacy.
At the start of two days of talks between NATO defense ministers, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg seemed unconvinced that the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine had been held up. and expressed cautious hopes for diplomacy. “We haven’t seen any withdrawal of Russian forces. And of course that contradicts the message of diplomatic efforts,” Soltenberg said. “What we see is that they have increased the number of troops and more troops are on the way. So, so far, no de-escalation.
World powers are embroiled in one of the deepest crises in East-West relations in decades, jostling for influence and post-Cold War energy supplies as Moscow seeks to prevent the former state Soviet Union to join the NATO military alliance. NATO refused to accede to this request from Moscow.
US President Joe Biden spelled out the stakes in a televised address on Tuesday, in which he warned that more than 150,000 Russian troops were still massed near Ukraine’s borders. The Russian Defense Ministry released a video it said showed tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery units leaving the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.
EASTERN FLANK Stoltenberg warned that the Russians frequently repositioned military hardware and troops during the build-up.
“The movement of forces, of battle tanks, does not confirm a real withdrawal,” he said. NATO will consider further steps on Wednesday to deter Russia on its eastern flank.
The Allies are also likely to promise more troops and equipment to NATO members in Eastern Europe, following a series of announcements over the past six weeks in response to the Russian threat in northern, eastern and southern Ukraine. Diplomats said it could involve 4,000 new troops in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia.
Ministers will also consider the alliance’s nuclear deterrents, although discussions are highly confidential. Russia has built up a large stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons. The latest crisis has galvanized NATO and given the alliance renewed meaning after the soul-searching that followed last year’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“The escalation of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border is growing and significant, and implores us as an alliance to continue to work together,” Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand said as she arrived for the meeting.
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