Russia says US ‘increasing tension’ by sending troops to Europe

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Russia says US 'increasing tension' by sending troops to Europe

The Kremlin accused the Biden administration Thursday of “aggravating tensions” by deploying thousands of troops to Eastern Europe to bolster the defense of allies in the region and counter Russia’s mammoth military buildup along Ukraine’s borders.

President Biden announced Wednesday that 3,000 US troops would be sent to Poland, Germany and Romania to boost the “deterrence and defense posture” of NATO forces as Russia reinforces its military presence near Ukraine and in Belarus, where Moscow is conducting joint military exercises this month.

“It’s obvious that these are not steps aimed at de-escalating tensions, but on the contrary they are actions that lead to increasing tension,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“We constantly call on our American counterparts to stop aggravating tensions on the European continent. Unfortunately, the Americans continue to do so,” he added.

Western estimates indicate more than 100,000 Russian troops have gathered along Moscow’s western border with Ukraine, and the US and its allies say an attack could come at any time.

tanks on a snow-covered field during joint exercises of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus
Russia has been conducting joint military exercises with Belarus this month.
HANDOUT/Russian Defence Ministry/AFP via Getty Images

With troops already in Crimea after the 2014 annexation of the province and in Belarus as part of the military exercises, Russia has forces aligned on three sides of Ukraine.

Russia has denied any intent to invade its neighbor.

At the same time, NATO, which has said it would not send troops to Ukraine if Russia invades, has been boosting its forces in member nations Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.

Putin has laid out a series of security guarantees that he wants the US and NATO to meet, including barring Ukraine and other ex-Soviet states from joining the 30-member alliance and pulling back troops from Eastern Europe.

Those issues were the topics of diplomatic discussions last month in Geneva that hit a dead end over the US’ refusal to rule out Ukraine ever joining the Atlantic alliance.

Putin said the US “ignored” Russia’s security concerns and accused the Biden administration of trying to lure it into a war.

The Russian leader will travel to China this week to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and attend the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics. 

Foreign ministers of both countries met in Beijing on Thursday to coordinate their positions on Ukraine, Afghanistan and North Korea. 

China expressed “understanding and support” for Russia’s security concerns in its standoff with the West.

Paratroopers with the US Army, 82nd Airborne Division prepare for deployment to Eastern Europe amid escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Paratroopers with the US Army, 82nd Airborne Division prepare for deployment to Eastern Europe amid escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that Russia has more troops and heavy weaponry in Belarus than at any time over the past three decades.

“Over the last days, we have seen a significant movement of Russian military forces into Belarus. This is the biggest Russian deployment there since the Cold War,” Stoltenberg told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Paratroopers with the US Army, 82nd Airborne Division
Russia said that the move to send 3,000 US troops to Europe will “lead to increasing tension.”
REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

He said troop numbers in Belarus could hit 30,000, backed by special forces, fighter jets, short-range ballistic missiles and ground-to-air missile defense systems.

Also Thursday, Ukraine dismissed allegations from Belarus’ defense ministry that Ukraine violated Minsk’s airspace with a drone last month, with Kiev claiming Belarus was working in cahoots with Russia to carry out a campaign of disinformation.

“We call on Minsk to refrain from playing along with Russia’s destabilizing activities,” Ukraine foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris
Vladimir Putin accused the Biden administration of trying to lure Russia into a war.
EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Belarus to review preparations for the military exercises, which are slated to take place Feb. 10 – 20, and to meet Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko. 

With Post wires

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