‘It Was False.’ Russia Still ‘Mobilizing for War,’ Official Says
Putin has moved 7,000 more troops to Ukraine border in recent days, says Biden official.
Russia is sending more troops to the Ukrainian border, one day after claiming that they would withdraw forces and de-escalate, a senior Biden administration official said Wednesday.
Russia added 7,000 troops over the past several days to the more than 150,000 amassed around Ukraine, the official told reporters. Some of those additional Russian troops arrived on Wednesday, the official said, despite Putin’s comments one day earlier that troops would head home now that military exercises had ended.
“Yesterday, the Russian government said it was withdrawing troops from the border with Ukraine. They received a lot of attention for that claim, both here and around the world. But we now know it was false,” the official said.
The official also cast doubt on the sincerity of Putin’s commitment to engage in diplomacy.
“Every indication we have now is they mean only to publicly offer to talk and make claims about deescalation while privately mobilizing for war,” the official said.
The official also repeated recent U.S. warnings that Russia could launch an attack as a response to a false pretext to justify an invasion of Ukraine “at any moment.” Those false claims could involve many different scenarios, including a provocation in the Donbas region in southeastern Ukraine, a NATO attack, or an incursion into Russian territory, the official predicted.
Officials in Washington are talking with counterparts around the world seeking to prevent conflict with diplomacy while also preparing swift retribution measures such as economic sanctions if Russia does invade.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about plans for “the reinforcement of NATO’s eastern flank if Russia further invades Ukraine.” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also spoke with Akiba Takeo, the secretary general of Japan’s National Security Secretariat, to talk about “the importance of a strong international response to any further Russian aggression.”
Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to continue conversations in person this weekend when she attends the high-level Munich Security Conference. While in Germany, Harris is expected to meet with a number of world leaders, including NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, leaders of the three Baltic countries, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and Germany’s Scholz, according to two senior administration officials.
The administration's choice to send Harris has sparked discussion among national security policy professionals, as the vice president is not known as a foreign policy issue leader. Last year, in a mostly virtual event, the newly inaugurated Biden delivered a speech that praised NATO and promised a renewal of U.S. leadership in Europe. The speech was coldly rebuffed, however, by France’s President Emmanuel Macron, who continues to push for a new security architecture less reliant on Washington.
“Her reason for going to Munich is to meet with what we think is over three dozen heads of state who will be there,” one official said. “She will hold the highest level meetings to consult with them on the latest developments and to ensure that the transatlantic community [and] the NATO alliance, that we speak with one voice that is strong and resolute.”