- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The threat of a new Russian invasion of Ukraine will top the agenda as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin attend meetings with their counterparts at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg made headlines ahead of the U.S. delegation’s arrival by demanding that Moscow dial back the    “unjustified” military provocations it has been making toward Ukraine over the past several weeks.

Russia has moved thousands of combat troops to Ukraine’s borders, the largest massing of Russian troops since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014,” Mr. Stoltenberg said Tuesday. “Over the last days, several Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in eastern Ukraine.”

Russia must end this military buildup in and around Ukraine, stop its provocations and de-escalate immediately,” the NATO chief added, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.

Biden administration officials have made similar statements over the past week, although it remains to be seen what action the U.S. and NATO may be planning in response to the increased Russian provocations.

Analysts have told The Washington Times that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been ramping up “hybrid warfare” operations in Ukraine, as well as in the Arctic, in recent weeks in an early test of President Biden’s resolve.

“The Kremlin is testing Biden in a couple of places right now. That’s what the Kremlin does. It tests new presidents,” Donald Jensen, a former U.S. diplomat and member of the Russia and Strategic Stability project at the United States Institute of Peace, told The Times last week.

Administration officials say Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin will be focused on Ukraine during NATO meetings Tuesday.

“We really continue to be concerned by the actions Russia has taken to escalate tension with Ukraine,” acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Philip T. Reeker told reporters on a conference call Monday.

“We commend Ukraine for its ongoing restraint in the face of Russia’s provocations. These sort of destabilizing actions have undermined the tenuous cease-fire agreement that was brokered by the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] back in July of 2020,” Mr. Reeker said. “At the same time, Russia has had a disinformation campaign blatantly designed to falsely blame Ukraine for what are the Kremlin’s own actions. So we’re monitoring the situation closely, coordinating with Ukrainian officials, with allies and partners.”

He added that Tuesday’s NATO meetings represent “a good opportunity to consult with our partners and allies on this concerning activity that the Russians are carrying out in the region.”

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide