By DoD News
By Jim Garamone
Russian leader Vladimir Putin continues to add to the military formations aligned on Ukraine’s borders, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said during a news conference Monday.
American and European leaders still do not know if Putin will invade Ukraine again, and Kirby urged the Russian leader to de-escalate the situation by pulling the troops from Russia’s border with Ukraine and those in Belarus also posed on Ukraine’s border.
Kirby said none of the Russian troops in the region — well in excess of 100,000 — are posed directly at NATO’s Eastern flank allies.
It is not just the number of troops that Putin has placed in the region, but the capabilities he is adding, the press secretary said. “We could not say with specificity now, a) that [Putin has] made a final decision one way or another, or b) if he does, what it’s going to be,” Kirby said. “But with each passing day, he gives himself a lot more options from a military perspective.”
Russia is adding “robust” combined arms capabilities. “That means not just infantry or tracked vehicles, but artillery and long-range fires, and air and missile defense, as well as special operations,” Kirby said. “He has a full suite available to him, and it continues to grow every day, including just over the last two days.”
Kirby said the movement of a 1,000-soldier Stryker squadron to Romania is finished, as is the movement of an 18th Airborne Corps headquarters to Germany. A “few hundred” 82nd Airborne soldiers have moved to Poland from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Around 1,700 soldiers will deploy to Poland in the coming days.
The American troops are arriving on station now and they are setting up, Kirby said. Once this is done, “I would expect you to see them … conduct some exercises with their … partners in Romania and Poland,” he said.
With all the Russian military posturing along its borders with Ukraine, there is still time and space for diplomacy, Kirby said. “We still believe there’s a diplomatic path forward that should and can be pursued,” he said. “And Mr. Putin can easily de-escalate … the tensions by just taking some of that force presence away, which is certainly within his power to do that.”