The Pentagon called on Moscow to “stand down” on Ukraine after the United States ratcheted up tensions with a claim that Russia is about to invade its neighbor.
Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin told reporters on Friday that Moscow has for months been massing troops along Ukraine’s border at a “consistent and steady pace.”
He added that the troop build-up has been supported by Russian naval activity in the northern Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea.
“We don't believe that President Putin has made a final decision to use these forces against Ukraine,” Austin said. “He clearly now has that capability.”
Austin said the US remains in “lockstep” with its NATO allies and has “offered Russia a path away from crisis and toward greater security.”
“There's no reason that this situation has to devolve into conflict,” Austin said. “[Putin] He can choose to deescalate, he can order his troops away. He can choose dialogue and diplomacy.”
“Whatever he decides, the United States will stand with our allies and partners,” he claimed.
The United States claims that Russia has been deploying thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine to attack the country. Moscow has rejected the allegations and said the military build-up is defensive.
Washington has been expanding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into the former Soviet states of Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, and the nations of the defunct Warsaw Pact, since the Cold War ended. Russia has vowed to counter any such Western attempts and made security demands.
On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said he would consider imposing direct economic sanctions on Putin if he orders an invasion of Ukraine.
Biden said there were no plans to send American troops to Ukraine, but said he would consider imposing economic sanctions personally targeting Putin and that there would be "enormous consequences" if Russia invaded.
Biden told reporters that the 8,500 troops put on high alert to potentially deploy to Eastern Europe “are part of a NATO operation, not a sole U.S. operation.”
“I made it clear to President Putin that we have a sacred obligation, Article 5 obligation to our NATO allies. And that if, in fact, he continued to build up and/or was to move, we would be reinforcing those troops,” Biden said.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the US will not deploy troops as part of an offensive against Russia.
“We haven't deployed anybody. We haven't moved anybody yet. We're just increasing our readiness levels,” Milley said. “We certainly have no intent whatsoever that I'm aware of putting offensive forces to attack Russia and I don't think that's NATO's intent at all.”
“It's the policy of the United States government to continue to support an independent Ukraine and their goals. And we are continuing our efforts to enhance their ability to protect themselves,” Milley said.
“We strongly encourage Russia to stand down and to pursue a resolution through diplomacy,” he continued. “Armed force should always be the last resort. Success here is through dialogue.”
Meanwhile, Washington has delivered written replies to sweeping Russian security demands and sought dialogue over Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the US delivered on Wednesday the written response to Russian security demands that Moscow has called for.
Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses: