Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told Russian President Vladimir Putin that any incursion into Ukraine would be a tragic miscalculation as the United States prepares to send thousands of troops to Europe to bolster NATO allies.
Johnson and Putin spoke by phone Feb. 2 as part of ongoing diplomatic efforts to ease tensions over Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine.
Live briefing: Ukraine in the crosshairs
Consult the RFE/RL new live briefing on the massive build-up of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border and the ongoing diplomacy to prevent a possible invasion. Ukraine in the crosshairs features the latest developments and analysis, updated throughout the day.
A spokesperson for Johnson’s office said he “expressed deep concern about the ongoing hostile Russian activity on the Ukrainian border” and “stressed the need to find a way forward that respects the both the territorial integrity of Ukraine and its right to self-defence”.
Johnson stressed that any further Russian incursion into Ukrainian territory would be “a tragic miscalculation”, the spokesman said.
A Kremlin statement said NATO’s “reluctance to adequately address” Russian concerns “was noted” during the call.
After orchestrating the troop build-up, Russia in December demanded legally binding guarantees from the United States and NATO that Ukraine would never join the bloc, that NATO would halt the deployment of weapons systems near Russian borders and that its forces will be withdrawn from the East. Europe.
NATO has said the demand for expansion is a no-start, saying it has an open-door policy that is non-negotiable, and Washington has stressed that sovereign states have the right to choose their own alliances. military.
The United States has told Russia that it is ready to hold talks on a reciprocal agreement on the deployment of ground-launched missiles or combat forces in Ukraine, according to documents published on February 2 by the Spanish newspaper El Peace.
Putin, who had previously said Russia’s demands had been “ignored”, told Johnson that NATO was “hiding behind” its open door policy, which the statement said “contradicts the fundamental principle of the indivisibility of security”.
He added that Putin had accused Ukraine of “chronic sabotage” of the Minsk agreements on resolving the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, where more than 13,000 people have been killed.
The West has accused Russia of providing military and financial aid to the separatists, accusations that Moscow denies.
Tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine have been simmering for weeks as the West accuses Moscow of preparing for a possible invasion.
Russia denies plans to invade despite encircling its neighbor with around 100,000 troops to the north, east and south. He claims that the United States and NATO are the instigators, citing the Western response as proof.
Earlier on February 2, the United States announced that it would send about 3,000 troops to Poland, Romania and Germany this week.
About 2,000 combat troops will be deployed from the United States to Poland and Germany, while about 1,000 troops now based in Germany will travel to Romania, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Feb. 2.
The troop deployments are “unmistakable signals to the world that we are ready” to defend NATO allies and the troop movements are not the “sum total of deterrence actions” the United States will take, said Kirby.
“It is important that we send a strong signal to Mr. Putin and, frankly, to the world that NATO matters to the United States and to our allies,” Kirby said during a press briefing, referring to the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He reiterated that the United States also remains open to continued diplomatic efforts to ease tensions caused by Russia’s military buildup and does not believe conflict is inevitable.
Moscow denounced the deployment as “destructive measures that increase military tension and reduce the scope of political decisions”.
Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko told the Interfax news agency that the move would reduce political room for decision-making regarding tensions in Ukraine “to the delight of the Kyiv authorities”.
The deployments go beyond troops put on alert last month to be ready to deploy to Europe, Kirby said. They are the subject of bilateral agreements with Poland, Romania and Germany and the troops deployed will remain under the American chain of command, he added.
Kirby clarified the moves were temporary, but said there could be further troop movements inside Europe, including French forces that would need to be sent to Romania. Kirby also said the Pentagon had not ruled out the possibility of additional forces being moved in from the United States.
Kirby also confirmed that the documents published on February 2 by the Spanish newspaper El Pais are authentic.
US President Joe Biden has said his decision to deploy troops to Europe is consistent with what he told Putin.
“As long as he acts aggressively, we’re going to make sure we can reassure our NATO allies and Eastern Europe that we’re here and that Article 5 is a sacred obligation,” he said. Biden to a CNN reporter. Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty states that an attack on one ally must be considered an attack on all.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz plans to travel to Moscow for a meeting with Putin.
“It is planned and it will take place soon,” Scholz said late on February 2 in an interview on the public broadcaster ZDF without specifying a date.
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