Russia continues to build up along its border with Ukraine and has moved sophisticated weapons systems into the country, the Pentagon press secretary said here today.
Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters that Russian military forces are part of those movements. Russian forces are, “facilitating the movement and then helping the separatists use the systems, if not using it themselves in support of separatists,” he said.
NATO has released surveillance photos showing these assets inside Ukraine. Kirby tied the Russian movements to the success that Ukraine has had against Russian-backed separatists in the country. “We believe that that has helped foster Moscow’s intention to intensify these efforts,” he said.
Kirby called Russian actions an “intensification” of the behaviors the Kremlin has exhibited for months.
“Our position hasn’t changed,” he said. “We continue to look for ways to support the Ukrainian armed forces and the border guards. We continue to look for ways to reassure our NATO allies and partners, and we continue to call for Russia to pull its forces back and to stop escalating the tension there.”
President Barack Obama addressed the issue yesterday during a White House news conference. Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the president said. He called on nations of the world to impose new sanctions against Russia.
“As a result of the actions Russia has already taken and the major sanctions we’ve imposed with our European and international partners, Russia is already more isolated than at any time since the end of the Cold War,” the president said.
Obama said he would reaffirm U.S. commitment to the defense of NATO allies and said he would speak with fellow NATO leaders at the summit in the United Kingdom next week.
“We’ll focus on the additional steps we can take to ensure the alliance remains prepared for any challenge,” he said.
Ukraine is not a NATO member, but the United States does “stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them,” the president said.