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Kirby: ‘It’s really unclear’ what Putin’s thinking amid rising Russia-Ukraine tensions

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Pentagon press secretary John KirbyJohn KirbyOvernight Defense & National Security — Inside Austin’s civilian harm directive Pentagon pauses civilian vaccine mandate after federal court ruling Russia announces military exercises amid standoff with US, NATO over Ukraine MORE said that “it’s really unclear” what Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinUK prime minister to call Putin in attempt to stop Ukraine invasion Belarusian president vows war if Russia, Belarus attacked Biden says he’ll send troops to Eastern Europe in ‘near term’ MORE is planning on doing amid rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

Greta Van Susteren asked the Pentagon spokesman in an interview to be aired on Sunday what might provoke Putin to act given the present situation between both countries.

“It’s really unclear what Mr. Putin has in mind. I mean, we do believe that at this point he still has not made a decision about whether to launch another invasion or an incursion of any size into Ukraine, but he has a lot more capability and a lot of options available to him now than he did even just two weeks ago,” Kirby replied.

“He continues to add to his forces on the ground, in and around the border with Ukraine as well as in Belarus,” he continued. “And he continues to operate significant numbers of ships in the Mediterranean and in the Atlantic.”

Kirby said that the Russian president had “a lot of options available to him” on how to proceed, but he said that he hoped Putin would choose diplomacy.

He explained that some of Russia’s demands, including prohibiting Ukraine from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), are outside of Putin’s purview, but added that there were others that the U.S. would be willing to work with him on.

“It’s not up to Vladimir Putin to put a veto on whether a nation joins NATO or who it associates with. It’s not up to Vladimir Putin to decide that their sovereignty can be violated so easily. So there’s certain things, obviously, principles we’re not going to compromise on,” Kirby told Van Susteren. 

“But when we started these negotiations with him, we were willing to put something on the table if the Russians would reciprocate. For instance, scaling back, maybe the size and scope of some of our exercises on the continent, but it would require reciprocity from the Russians. They weren’t willing to go there,” he continued. “So again, we’re not closing the door on talks. The State Department has been clear, there’s still room for that, but we’ll have to see where it goes.”

The remarks from Kirby come as over 100,000 Russian troops have been amassed at the Ukrainian border as the international community remains worried about a possible invasion into Ukraine. Russia has denied intentions to invade the former Soviet Union state.

However, Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north, and Russia are set to conduct joint military exercises next month, amplifying the military presence in the area.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, an ally to Putin, on Friday vowed war if either his country or Russia were attacked.

Meanwhile, President BidenJoe BidenFormer chairman of Wisconsin GOP party signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena Romney tests positive for coronavirus Pelosi sidesteps progressives’ March 1 deadline for Build Back Better MORE said on Friday that a small number of troops would soon be deployed to eastern Europe.

“I’ll be moving troops to Eastern Europe in the NATO countries in the near term,” Biden told reporters at Joint Base Andrews upon returning from a trip to Pittsburgh. “Not too many.”

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