BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles of the Russian Southern Military District's 150th Rifle Division take part in a military exercise at Kadamovsky Range, in the Rostov region of Russia, near Ukraine, Jan. 27, 2022.

BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles of the Russian Southern Military District's 150th Rifle Division take part in a military exercise at Kadamovsky Range, in the Rostov region of Russia, near Ukraine, Jan. 27, 2022. TASS via Getty Images / Erik Romanenko

US to Russia: Explain Your Military Buildup to the UN

The UN Security Council will meet on Monday in the latest diplomatic move amid tensions.

The United States is demanding that Russia explain its military buildup near Ukraine at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Monday, senior administration officials told reporters.

The meeting, which was called by the United States, will follow weeks of attempts at diplomacy aimed at easing tensions. Previous efforts have involved NATO as well as bilateral and multilateral meetings by the United States, Europe, Ukraine and Russia. 

“We believe that the situation on the ground requires us to engage in preventive diplomacy to avoid a crisis before it is upon us,” a senior administration official said Friday. “It would be a dereliction of the Security Council’s duties to take a wait-and see-approach. In this instance, the council’s full attention is needed now.”

The United States called the meeting to allow Russia the opportunity to explain why it is massing more than 100,000 troops and military equipment on the border with Ukraine, the official said. Officials will be prepared to counter any lies from Moscow, such as the idea that Ukraine and NATO are the aggressors in this situation and provoking Russian retaliation, the senior administration official said. 

The official said other members of the Security Council will have the chance at the meeting to condemn Russia’s actions in a public forum. 

“This is a really important opportunity for all the world’s powers to be on the record about whether they see a path forward for diplomacy or whether they would prefer to see a path towards conflict,” the official said. “That’s what we’re hoping and expecting to hear from council members during the session.” 

Even as the United States is bringing this issue to the United Nations, NATO is continuing to try to open dialogue with Russia and present a united front against aggression from Moscow. 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that members of the alliance are united in their defense of other allies, despite differences about how much aid should be given to Ukraine.

Some member states are withholding support from Kyiv or pursuing their own diplomatic paths separate from NATO. Though Germany promised to end its involvement with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine, it has also refused to send weapons to Ukraine, and officials in Kyiv dubbed the German offer of 5,000 helmets a “joke.” French and German officials met this week with Ukrainian and Russian counterparts, leaving the United States and NATO out of this round of talks. That group promised to meet again in two weeks in Berlin.  

But Stoltenberg emphasized that Germany and France are “100 percent” committed to defending NATO allies even as they take a different approach from the rest of the alliance to Ukraine. Germany leads the enhanced forward presence battle group in Lithuania, and French troops rotate among NATO’s battle groups on its eastern flank. 

“There is no way Germany can not be a part of that because they’re already there,” Stoltenberg said. 

If a NATO member is attacked, Article 5 of its founding treaty requires that all other countries in the alliance come to its defense. An attack on a non-NATO ally, such as Ukraine, does not require that same level of response, Stoltenberg said. 

“This is about defending NATO allies and Article 5, the commitment to defend all allies…that’s in a way enshrined in our founding treaty, something we have been committed to all of us for more than 70 years,” he said at an Atlantic Council event. “Then there is the other issue that’s also important…that is what kind of support we provide to Ukraine, which is not a NATO ally but a highly valued NATO partner. There are some differences between allies, I don’t try to hide that, but that’s a very different thing than the commitment to protect and defend all allies.”

Last week, President Biden said that the United States will increase its presence in Russian border states, including Poland and Romania, if Russian leader Vladimir Putin invades Ukraine. The Pentagon has also placed 8,500 troops on high alert to be ready to deploy if needed to support NATO or defend members of the alliance in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland. 

On Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said allies are united in their condemnation of Russia’s aggressive action, even if they differ in their desire to support Ukraine.

“Our view is that ‘unity’ does not mean ‘identical,’” Psaki said at a briefing. “What is most important is being united against the bellicose rhetoric, the buildup of troops, and the potential of Russia invading a sovereign country — the sovereign country of Ukraine.  And we have found Germany to be very much united with us in that effort, as we have found with other European countries.”

Still, it’s critical for NATO members to be on the same page to have the best chance at deterring Moscow. 

“The most important thing NATO needs to do right now is solidarity, is making sure that we present a united front in both policy and action to Russia,” Philip Breedlove, a retired general and former supreme allied commander of Europe, said at an Atlantic Council event.  “We need to work on that internal solidarity.”