Russia Is Promising Not to Invade Ukraine, But the West Is Wary

“The reality is, they continue to build up their forces,” says Chuck Hagel.

Heavily-armed soldiers without identifying insignia guard the Crimean parliament building next to a sign that reads: 'Crimea Russia' after taking up positions there earlier in the day on March 1, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine.
National Journal
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Sara Sorcher
March 26, 2014, 9:19 a.m.

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.


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