The US is sending more troops to Europe because of Russian ?aggression,? the White House insists
Russia should not regard additional NATO troops in Eastern Europe as a provocation, but a legitimate response to its "aggression" in Ukraine by a purely defensive alliance, the spokesman for the US National Security Council John Kirby told reporters.
Kirby was asked by Bloomberg to comment on US President Joe Biden's announcement on Wednesday that more troops will be sent to Poland, Romania and the Baltic states, along with additional US planes and ships being stationed elsewhere on the continent.
"There's no reason that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin needs to view any force posture change on NATO's eastern flank as a provocation. NATO is, will be, always has been a defensive alliance," said Kirby.
"The reason we have to do this is because Mr Putin has been the destabilizing influence on the continent. Mr Putin decided to invade a sovereign, neighboring state. Mr Putin is the one who is the aggressor," Kirby added.
The retired US Navy admiral, who left his job as the Pentagon spokesman last month to move to the White House, also argued that while NATO wants the conflict in Ukraine to end, it's up to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "to determine when and where, [and] under what circumstances, the negotiations can even begin."
Meanwhile, NATO leaders have given Zelensky unconditional support to fight, not to negotiate. "We make it very clear that this war can only be won on the battlefield," Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on Wednesday.
Moscow has scoffed at NATO's claims that it's a purely defensive alliance, pointing to its track record over the past two decades, from the 1999 war against Yugoslavia to the 2011 regime change in Libya and the bombing of Syria in recent years.
"In futile attempts to justify their aggression against sovereign states, the collective West had to come up with exotic concepts, such as 'humanitarian intervention,' 'war on terror,' 'preventive strikes'," Vasily Nebenzya, Russia's permanent representative to the United Nations, told the UN Security Council earlier this month.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev's failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev's main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and "create powerful armed forces."
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.