Russia’s military build-up on the border with Ukraine has yet to raise any alarm in Washington.
The highest-ranking United States military official said on Wednesday that the US was aware of Moscow’s military agitation, describing it as “important” but also as “nothing offensive”.
“We’ve seen this before,” General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a security forum in Washington, adding that Russia’s annual Zapad exercise often involves thousands of soldiers.
“So, what does that mean? We don’t know yet,” Miley said. “But we are continuing to monitor to the best of our ability.”
US military and intelligence officials repeatedly expressed concern last April, when Russia increased the number of troops along its border with Ukraine to 150,000, calling that buildup the largest since Moscow’s invasion of Crimea in 2014.
But Milley’s remarks come at a time when tensions between Russia and the US and NATO are rising again.
Russia this week complained about US and NATO activities in the Black Sea as its naval forces practiced destroying enemy positions in the Black Sea.
And last month, Russia suspended its diplomatic mission in NATO in retaliation for the expulsion of eight Russian officials.
In an apparent effort to defuse tensions, US President Joe Biden this week sent his top spy, Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns, to Moscow for a series of talks.
According to a statement from the US embassy in Moscow, Burns was “to meet with members of the Russian government to discuss a range of issues in the bilateral relationship.”
While not directly commenting on the conversation, Milley voiced support for the discussion.
“I firmly believe that you should not only talk to your allies and partners and friends, but you should also talk to your opponents and your enemies,” Milley said on Wednesday. “The last thing this world needs, the last thing that the United States or anyone else needs, is a great power war. And so, to the extent that we militarize or NATO, through intermediaries or directly, back and forth Russia, China or any other country can communicate, I think to the plus column.”
Last June, the US gave Ukraine a $150 million security package aimed at boosting the country’s defensive capabilities.
Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.