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‘Lot of concern’ over Russian military activity near Ukraine, top U.S. general says

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(Last Updated On: December 3, 2021)

The United States is tracking enough indicators and warnings surrounding Russian military activity near Ukraine to trigger “a lot of concern” and Russian rhetoric appears increasingly strident, the top U.S. military officer said late on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to speculate about the kinds of options the United States might consider in the event of a Russian invasion. But Milley, in some of his most extensive remarks on the crisis, stressed the importance of Ukraine’s sovereignty to Washington and to the NATO alliance.

“There’s significant national security interests of the United States and of NATO member states at stake here if there was an overt act of aggressive action militarily by the Russians into a nation state that has been independent since 1991,” Milley said during a flight from Seoul to Washington.

Ukraine says Russia has amassed more than 90,000 troops near their long shared border. But Moscow has dismissed suggestions it is preparing for an attack on its southern neighbor and has defended its right to deploy troops on its own territory as it sees fit.

According to Reuters the Kremlin already annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and then backed rebels fighting Kyiv government forces in the east of the country. That conflict has killed 14,000 people, Kyiv says, and is still simmering.

Experts caution that an unchallenged Russian invasion could beRussian military destabilizing, creating ripple effects well beyond Ukraine at a time of increasing anxiety over Chinese intentions toward Taiwan, read the report.

Milley declined to state publicly his estimate of the number of Russian forces near Ukraine but suggested his concerns went beyond the raw numbers of Russian troops.

“I’m not going to tell you what we track and the indicators or warnings from an intelligence standpoint, but we track them all,” Milley said. “And there’s enough out there now to cause a lot of concern, and we’ll continue to monitor.”

According to the report Russia and Ukraine have centuries of shared history and formed the two biggest republics of the Soviet Union until its 1991 collapse, so Moscow views its neighbor’s ambition to join NATO as an affront and a threat.

Since the latest crisis started, Moscow has set out demands for legally binding security guarantees from the West, and for assurances that NATO will not admit Ukraine as a member or deploy missile systems there to target Russia.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Moscow on Thursday of “severe costs” if it invaded Ukraine, urging his Russian counterpart to seek a diplomatic exit from the crisis.

Milley declined to speculate whether Russian President Vladimir Putin might be emboldened by U.S. President Joe Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying “You’d have to ask Putin.” The August pullout ended America’s two-decade-old war in an unambiguous defeat, with the Taliban returning to power.

“I think it would be a mistake for any country to draw a broad strategic conclusion based on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and then take that event and automatically apply it to other situations,” Milley said.

He cited historic examples of past U.S. presidents who withdrew troops in some places but ordered military action elsewhere.

“So the United States is a difficult country for other countries to understand sometimes,” he said.

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US warns of ‘horrific’ destruction, casualties if Russia invades Ukraine

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(Last Updated On: January 29, 2022)

If Russia unleashes the forces it has amassed near Ukraine’s border to invade its neighbor, the outcome would be “horrific” and result in significant casualties, the top US military officer said on Friday, comparing this moment to the Cold War.

Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the comments amid fragile Russia-US diplomacy in a broader East-West standoff over Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Moscow has demanded NATO pull back troops and weapons from Eastern Europe and bar Ukraine from ever joining the military alliance.

Washington and its NATO allies reject that position but say they are ready to discuss other topics such as arms control and confidence-building measures that would convince Russia to pull back its troops from near Ukraine’s border.

Speaking at a Pentagon news conference, Milley said that given the types of forces Russia has arrayed, “all of it packaged together, if that was unleashed on Ukraine, it would be significant, very significant, and it would result in a significant amount of casualties.”

He added: “And you can imagine what that might look like in dense urban areas, along roads and so on and so forth. It would be horrific, it would be terrible.”

Speaking alongside Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that while the United States does not believe Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a decision whether to invade, he now has the military capability to do so.

“[There] are multiple options available to [Putin] including the seizure of cities and significant territories, but also coercive acts and provocative political acts like the recognition of breakaway territories,” Austin said.

He said the United States remains focused on countering Russian disinformation, including anything that could be used as a pretext for attacks against Ukraine, Reuters reported.

He added that the United States was committed to helping Ukraine defend itself.

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Russia, China to discuss European security amid Ukraine standoff 

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(Last Updated On: January 28, 2022)

Russian and Chinese presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will spend a “lot of time” discussing security in Europe and the set of demands Moscow has made of the West when they meet for talks next week, the Kremlin said on Friday.

Reuters reported that Putin will travel to China to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics on Feb. 4 against the backdrop of a tense confrontation with the West over Ukraine.

According to Reuters, the talks will be closely watched in Washington and elsewhere for clues to the direction of the Russia-China relationship, which has grown closer as both countries’ ties with the West have deteriorated.

Moscow has built up military forces near Ukraine in a show of strength as it presses its demands for security guarantees from the United States and its allies, read the report.

“I think this time of course a lot of time will be spent on an exchange of views on international issues, including strategic stability in Europe, security guarantees for Russia, security in Europe and Russia’s dialogue with the United States and NATO, and regional problems,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Putin is set to fill a void left by foreign dignitaries after some Western countries announced they would not send state officials to the Games because of China’s human rights record. Putin has said he opposes diplomatic boycotts, the report said.

Russia has cultivated closer ties with China since 2014 when its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine soured relations with the West.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow did not want war with Ukraine and spoke positively about security proposals received from the United States.

The U.S. proposals were better than proposals received from NATO, said Lavrov, who said he expected to meet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the next couple of weeks, the report added.

Lavrov said President Vladimir Putin would decide how to respond to the proposals.

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Ten Pakistani soldiers killed in insurgent attack, army says

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(Last Updated On: January 28, 2022)

Separatist insurgents have claimed responsibility for an attack on a Pakistani army post near a southwestern port in which China is investing, and the army said 10 soldiers were killed.

The attack, launched late on Tuesday in Kech district, north of Gwadar port, was the heaviest in years in a low-key insurgency that ethnic Baloch insurgents have been waging against the Pakistani government.

“We are resolute in our commitment to rid Pakistan of all forms of terrorism,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a statement on Friday in which he paid tribute to the 10 “martyred” soldiers.

The army said it killed one of the attackers and arrested three in a clearance operation that was still going on.

The Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) insurgent group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement sent to a Reuters reporter that 17 soldiers and one of its members were killed.

Ethnic Baloch guerrillas have been fighting the government for decades for a separate state, saying Pakistan’s central government unfairly exploit the rich gas and mineral resources of Balochistan province, which shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran.

China is involved in the development of the Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea and other projects in the province as part of a

$60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is itself

part of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative.

The insurgents often target gas projects as well as infrastructure and security posts in the province but have begun launching attacks in other parts of Pakistan.

They also attack Chinese projects, and occasionally kill Chinese workers despite Pakistani assurances that it is doing everything it can to protect the Chinese projects.

Pakistan has also accused India of covertly supporting the insurgents. India denies that.

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