Russia is promising not to invade Ukraine, but the Pentagon isn’t fully buying it — especially as thousands of Russian troops mass along its border.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu “told me that they had no intention of crossing the border into Ukraine,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday.
“I told him that we looked forward to the Russians living up to their word, if that was the case,” Hagel said. “But the reality is, they continue to build up their forces.”
British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond — speaking alongside Hagel in the Pentagon briefing room — said he was also unsure that Shoygu could accurately speak for Russian President Vladimir Putin. “All the evidence suggests that the Russian agenda is being very much run by Putin personally,” Hammond said.
While Shoygu may have assured the West there will be no further Russian aggression, Hammond said, “we do not know to what point all those people are inside his inner circle.”
Russia has described the troop movements along the border with Ukraine as a military exercise, but after Russia took control of the formerly Ukrainian Crimea, Western leaders have been skeptical that Putin will not seek to take more territory that was formerly under Moscow’s control.