Secretary of Defense Austin heads to Europe to discuss Russian military buildup


The Pentagon announced on Monday that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is traveling this week to visit Europe’s eastern NATO allies amid uncertainty about whether Russia will invade Ukraine.

According to a Pentagon press release, Austin will depart on February 15 and will visit Belgium, Poland and Lithuania to meet with government and military leaders.

In Belgium, Austin will meet with allied defense ministers and NATO leaders to discuss the build-up of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine, Belarus and the Crimea attached to Russia. He also reaffirms the United States’ commitment to the Defense Pact, according to the release.

Austin then heads to Poland to meet with the replacement US forces at the Powidz Air Force Base. He also meets with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Polish Defense Minister Marius Braschak.

In Lithuania, Austin meets with Lithuanian leaders to discuss efforts to strengthen Lithuanian troops and visit US troops stationed in the country. He will also meet with defense leaders from Estonia and Latvia.

This was after the Biden administration announced on February 2nd its plans to increase the presence of its troops in Eastern Europe. Its deployment includes about 2,000 troops going to Germany and Poland, and 1,000 cavalry troops moving from Germany to Romania.

US officials continue to send an urgent message as it relates to the possibility of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday that Russia could invade “at any time” and could choose to invade Russia before the end of the February 20 Beijing Olympics. He repeated the comment of Jake Sullivan, National Security Adviser. ..

“Looking at what’s happening on the Ukrainian border in the last 10 days or so, there are more than 100,000 troops, and it’s becoming more and more troops every day,” she says. I did.

U.S. officials have also advised all U.S. citizens in Ukraine to leave the country, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Monday that U.S. officials have been transferred from the Kiev embassy to the western city of Lviv. did. Russian army. “

Russia has denied that its intention is aggression. And on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergeń≠ Viklov urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to give him more time for diplomacy.

“Our potential seems endless,” Viklov said in a television exchange with Putin. “At this stage, we recommend that you continue to build.”

Russia has demanded that NATO not allow Ukraine to become a member of the defense alliance. NATO countries have stated that the decision on whether Ukraine should participate should be left to NATO and Ukraine.

At a press conference in Kiev, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his country’s desire to join NATO, but said the prospect of joining NATO could be “dreamy”, Ukraine said. He questioned how far he would go.

The U.S. warns Russia of strict sanctions if it moves to invade Ukraine, saying that sending U.S. troops to Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion is “off the table.” rice field.

Nick Ciolino

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Nick Ciolino covers the White House.

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