Asked about Moscow’s troop buildup, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US and its Nato partners “will closely match Russian words to Russian deeds, what they say to what they actually do.”
“We’ve seen some of those troops inch closer to that border. We see them fly in more combat and support aircraft,” he said at Nato headquarters in Brussels. “We see them sharpen their readiness in the Black Sea. We even see them stocking up their blood supplies. You don’t do these sort of things for no reason, and you certainly don’t do them if you’re getting ready to pack up and go home.”
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was concerned “that Russia is trying to stage a pretext for an armed attack against Ukraine.”
After a handful of positive signals from Russia that lowered the temperature in the crisis earlier in the week, the pendulum appeared to swing in the opposite direction again. With an estimated 150,000-plus troops massed near Ukraine, the Kremlin offered to keep pursuing diplomatic solutions — an overture the Nato chief welcomed, even as he and others warned that the US-led alliance has seen no sign of the military withdrawal that Moscow announced.
“We have seen the opposite of some of the statements. We have seen an increase of troops over the last 48 hours, up to 7,000,” said British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace ahead of a meeting Thursday of the western alliance in Brussels.
That squared with what a US administration official said a day earlier.