Thursday, May 26

US warns Russia’s conflict with Ukraine would be ‘horrible’ as tensions simmer | Ukraine

The United States has warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be “horrible” for both sides, while calling for a diplomatic solution as tensions over Moscow’s military buildup on the country’s border continued to simmer.

Speaking at the Pentagon on Friday, senior US officials urged a focus on diplomacy, saying Russia now had enough troops and equipment to threaten all of Ukraine.

Any such conflict, top US general Mark Milley warned, would be “horrible” for both sides.

“If that did break out in Ukraine, it would be significant, very significant and result in a significant number of casualties,” Milley said.

“It would be horrible, it would be terrible,” added the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Speaking alongside Milley, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the buildup of Russian forces along the Ukraine border has reached the point where Putin now has a full range of military options, including actions short of a full-scale invasion.

But Austin said war in Ukraine could still be avoided.

“Conflict is not inevitable. There is still time and space for diplomacy,” Austin said.

“Mr. Putin can also do the right thing,” he said. “There is no reason that this situation has to turn into a conflict. You can choose to de-escalate. You can order your troops to stand down.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden said he would send a small number of US troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the short term.”

The Pentagon has already placed around 8,500 US troops on standby for possible deployment to Europe amid Russia’s military buildup near the Ukrainian border.

“I will move troops to Eastern Europe and NATO countries in the short term. Not too many,” Biden told reporters on his way back to Washington from a speech in Philadelphia.

Top US General, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley.
Top US General, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

It comes as Vladimir Putin made his first public comments on US and NATO responses to Russian proposals to rewrite the post-Cold War security architecture. Putin said the United States and its NATO allies had ignored Russia’s main security concerns but vowed to continue talks with the West, in a call with Emmanuel Macron.

The Russian leader said Moscow’s concerns about NATO expansion and the deployment of strike weapons near its borders had not been taken into account, according to a Kremlin readout of the phone call with his French counterpart.

Macron told Putin that Russia had to respect the sovereignty of states, according to the Elysee. Putin agreed to continue the talks, so there was a sense that “things have moved on,” a French presidential official said.

More than 100,000 Russian troops have massed on the Ukrainian border, prompting Biden to tell Zelenskiy on Thursday that there was “a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February.”

Asked about the call, Zelenskiy said he did not consider the situation any more tense than before. “There is a feeling abroad that there is a war here. That is not the case,” he said. “I’m not saying escalation isn’t possible… [but] we don’t need this panic.”

The Europeans have taken a more cautious approach to predictions of a Russian attack than Washington. The head of Germany’s foreign intelligence service said on Friday that Russia was not yet determined on an invasion, although it was prepared. “I think the decision to attack has not yet been made,” Bruno Kahl told Reuters.

In a call with Macron that lasted more than an hour, Putin said the US and NATO had failed to take into account Moscow’s “fundamental concerns” about NATO expansion and the deployment of strike missiles near the Russian border. .

Washington and European capitals rejected Russia’s demands to veto Ukraine’s NATO membership, but set out proposals on other ways to improve security on the continent in the unpublished documents.

“The key question was ignored,” Putin was reported to have said, according to the Kremlin statement. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Russia’s relationship with NATO, the Russian president continued, were based on the principle that “no one should strengthen their security at the expense of other countries.”

The Russian leader also promised to “carefully study” the written responses from the United States and NATO and to continue a “Russian-French dialogue on the full range of European security issues.”

Putin told the French leader that Russia would continue talks in the so-called Normandy format bringing together representatives from France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia, following talks earlier this week between the quartet of countries.

Putin told Macron that the French president was “the only one with whom he could have such serious discussions,” according to the French presidency source.

There was “disagreement, but agreement on the need for dialogue and for the Europeans and France to be part of the ongoing dialogue,” the French official said. “Dialogue is difficult and there were no solutions from this call.”

The French president has long called for dialogue with Russia, at times angering other EU member states that have preferred a more distanced approach.

On Friday night, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he planned to visit the Ukraine region and hold crisis talks with Putin next week.

Associated Press and Agence-France Press contributed to this report

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