Russia accuses US of escalating tension, condemns destructive US troop increase in Europe

Russia has condemned a US decision to send extra troops to Europe to support its allies amid continuing fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow said it was a “destructive” step which heightened tension and reduced the scope for a political solution.

The Pentagon said 2,000 US troops would be sent from North Carolina to Poland and Germany, and a further 1,000 already in Germany would go to Romania.

Russia has some 100,000 troops near Ukraine. It denies planning to invade.

The tensions come eight years after Russia annexed Ukraine’s southern Crimea peninsula and backed a bloody rebellion in the eastern Donbas region.

The US and the Western military alliance NATO question the continued build up of Russian forces near Ukraine.

Moscow accuses the Ukrainian government of failing to implement the Minsk agreement – an international deal to restore peace to the east, where Russian-backed rebels control swathes of territory and at least 14,000 people have been killed since 2014.

On Thursday Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had seen a “significant movement” of roughly 30,000 Russian troops to Belarus in the last few days – the biggest deployment to the country since the end of the Cold War.

Russia says the troops are there for joint military drills.

Ukraine, meanwhile, has sought to dampen talks of conflict. Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Thursday the number of ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine had dropped, and that there have been no combat losses for three weeks.

A ‘destructive’ step

Responding to US President Joe Biden’s decision to deploy extra troops to Europe this week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said it was a “destructive” and an “unjustified” step.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Grushko added that it would “delight” the Ukrainian authorities, who would continue sabotaging the Minsk agreement “with impunity”.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov urged the US to “stop escalating tensions” in Europe, saying the new troop deployment worsened the situation and adding that Russian concerns about Nato’s eastward expansion are “absolutely justified”.

The Pentagon has said the US troops being deployed would not fight in Ukraine – but would ensure the defense of Washington’s allies.

Their deployment is in addition to the 8,500 troops the Pentagon put on alert last month to be ready to deploy to Europe if needed.

“It’s important that we send a strong signal to Mr Putin and, frankly, to the world that Nato matters to the United States and it matters to our allies,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday.

He also said a US proposal “leaked to a European news outlet” was genuine. He appeared to be referring to a story in Spain’s El País newspaper about a US offer of talks with Russia in exchange for reducing tensions over Ukraine.

But on the question of alleged invasion plans by Mr Putin, he said: “We still don’t believe he’s made a decision to further invade Ukraine.”

The US proposals reportedly include:

  • “Reciprocal commitments” by the US and Russia “to refrain from deploying offensive ground-launched missile systems and permanent forces with a combat mission in the territory of Ukraine”
  • Talks about reducing nuclear weaponry and missile launchers
  • A “transparency mechanism” to show Russia there are no US cruise missiles at two Nato bases in Romania and Bulgaria, in exchange for Russia allowing the US to check two Russian bases for missiles

The documents said the US would discuss all issues that affect European security with its allies.


Arab Observer

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