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.
Dozens of migrants die in truck in Texas
More than 40 migrants were found dead inside a tractor-trailer in Texas State of the United States on Monday, reports said.
Sixteen other people found inside the trailer were taken to hospital for heat stroke and exhaustion, including four minors, Reuters reported citing the fire department of the San Antonio city where the truck was found.
Officials also said three people were arrested following the incident.
Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard called the suffocation of the migrants in the truck the “tragedy in Texas” on Twitter and said the local consulate was en route to the scene, though the nationalities of the victims had not been confirmed.
There have been a record number of migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months, which has sparked criticism of the immigration policies of U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat.
Temperatures in San Antonio, which is about 250 km from the Mexican border, swelled to a high of 39.4 degrees Celsius on Monday with high humidity.
In July 2017, ten migrants died after being transported in a tractor-trailer that was discovered by San Antonio police in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The driver was sentenced the following year to life in prison for his role in the smuggling operation.
G-7 leaders set to commit to long haul in backing Ukraine
Leaders of the Group of Seven economic powers are set to commit themselves to the long haul in supporting Ukraine as they meet in the German Alps and confer by video link with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The G-7 leaders will begin Monday’s session of their three-day summit with a focus on Ukraine. Later, they will be joined by the leaders of five democratic emerging economies — India, Indonesia, South Africa, Senegal and Argentina — for a discussion on climate change, energy and other issues, AP reported.
The war in Ukraine was already at the forefront of the G-7 leaders’ minds as they opened their summit at the secluded Schloss Elmau luxury hotel on Sunday — just as Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv for the first time in weeks.
U.S. President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “has been counting on, from the beginning, that somehow NATO and the G-7 would splinter, but we haven’t and we’re not going to.” Britain’s Boris Johnson warned the leaders not to give in to “fatigue.”
On Monday, they have the opportunity to demonstrate that unity to Zelenskyy and reaffirm their commitment to supporting Kyiv financially and otherwise, AP reported.
Biden hopes to use his trip to Europe to proclaim the unity of the coalition pressing to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine as much as he is urging allies to do even more — seeking to counter doubts about its endurance as the war grinds into its fifth month.
The summit’s host, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said last week that he wants to discuss the outlines of a “Marshall plan for Ukraine” with his G-7 counterparts, referring to the U.S.-sponsored plan that helped revive European economies after World War II.
With the war still in progress and destruction mounting by the day, it’s unlikely to be a detailed plan at this stage. Scholz has said that “rebuilding Ukraine will be a task for generations.”
The G-7 already is committed to help finance Ukraine’s immediate needs. Finance ministers from the group last month agreed to provide $19.8 billion in economic aid to help Kyiv keep basic services functioning and prevent tight finances from hindering its defense against Russian forces, AP reported.
G7 nations announce Russia gold ban as summit starts under shadow of war
Members of the Group of Seven wealthy nations on Sunday announced a ban on imports of Russian gold as the G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps kicked off under the shadow of the war in Ukraine and consequences ranging from energy shortages to a food crisis.
The move by Britain, the United States, Japan and Canada is part of efforts to tighten the sanctions squeeze on Moscow and cut off its means of financing the invasion of Ukraine more than four months into a conflict Russian President Vladimir Putin calls a special military operation, Reuters reported.
“The measures we have announced today will directly hit Russian oligarchs and strike at the heart of Putin’s war machine,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.
“We need to starve the Putin regime of its funding. The UK and our allies are doing just that.”
A senior U.S. administration representative said the G7 would make an official announcement on the gold import ban on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
“This is a key export, a key source of revenue for Russia in terms of their ability to transact with the global financial system,” the U.S. official said.
Russian gold exports were worth $15.45 billion last year and wealthy Russians have been buying bullion to reduce the financial impact of Western sanctions, the British government said.
As well as the gold import ban, G7 leaders were also having “really constructive” talks on a possible price cap on Russian oil imports, a German government source said.
The three-day summit takes place against an even darker backdrop than last year, when British, Canadian, French, German, Italian, Japanese and U.S. leaders met for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Soaring global energy and food prices are hitting economic growth in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, with the United Nations warning of an “unprecedented global hunger crisis”.
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