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US European Command on High Alert as Russia Increases Aggression in Eastern Europe

US European Command on High Alert as Russia Increases Aggression in Eastern Europe
An Ukrainian serviceman stands in position on the front line with Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk region on February 19, 2021. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP via Getty)

By    |   Sunday, 04 April 2021 07:47 PM

The U.S. European Command has raised its threat level as Russia has increased its aggression in Eastern Europe and the Arctic over the last two weeks, including Moscow's buildup of military troops and equipment in eastern Ukraine and an "unusual peak" of Russian warplanes flying near Alaskan airspace, reports Politico.

“We’re discussing our concerns about this increase in tensions and cease-fire violations and regional tensions with NATO allies,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday.

Officials are also concerned about fighting between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian soldiers in the Donetsk Region of eastern Ukraine, marking the end of a ceasefire that started last June. At least 20 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the clashes with Russian troops since the start of 2021.

Ukraine and Russia have been fighting since 2014 when Moscow seized and annexed Crimea from Ukraine, a conflict which has been said to have already claimed more than 14,000 lives.

Current Russian activity in Ukraine is testing the Biden administration’s resolve as the recent activity presents a fresh foreign policy challenge. Biden during his campaign vowed to take a hardline approach on Russia and promised voters he would be tougher on Russia than former President Donald Trump.

Biden has continued to support Ukraine and recently provided an additional $125 million worth of border security. The U.S. government has already sent more than $2 billion in lethal assistance to the country since Crimea’s annexation.

Biden’s top national security leaders telephoned their Ukrainian counterparts and other leaders in the region to discuss the issues.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley on Wednesday spoke by phone with Ukraine Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Ruslan Khomchak as well as Russia's top officer, Chief of the General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov, reported the Hill. 

“I think we’ve been very clear about the threats that we see from Russia across domains. ... We're taking them very, very seriously,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Wednesday.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called his Ukrainian counterpart, Minister of Defense Andriy Taran, to “discuss the regional security situation” and condemned “recent escalations of Russian aggressive and provocative actions in eastern Ukraine,” according to Kirby. 

Mutual cooperation and strengthening of security was discussed. National security adviser Jake Sullivan last week also spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, as did Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said he discussed "ways of strengthening security cooperation" with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, reports the Hill.

The homeland defense Commander of the U.S. Northern Command, Gen. Glen VanHerck, said Moscow was attempting to “reassert its influence on a global stage” and that the current posturing was due to the United States and Russia being in a “great power competition,” like they were during the Cold War.

NATO fighter jets last Monday scrambled ten times to shadow Russian bombers and fighters during an unusual peak of flights over the North Atlantic, North Sea, Black Sea and Baltic Sea.

Russia on Friday warned against NATO against deploying troops to Ukraine, saying it would be forced to respond.

“There is no doubt such a scenario would lead to a further increase in tensions close to Russia’s borders. Of course, this would call for additional measures from the Russian side to ensure its security,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday.

It is currently unknown whether Russia intends to increase conflict levels with Ukraine or what type of response NATO would provide for Ukraine.

“We're monitoring the situation with respect to Ukrainian military reports of Russian military placements and forces along the border ... very, very closely,” Kirby said Thursday.

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The U.S. European Command has raised its threat level as Russia has increased its aggression in Eastern Europe and the Arctic over the last two weeks.
russia, aggression, ukraine, us, european command
Sunday, 04 April 2021 07:47 PM
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