By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 27, 2014 – Russia continues to reinforce units along the eastern and southern Ukraine border, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said during a news conference today.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week that the Russian troops were massing for regularly scheduled exercises.
“The minister said it was exercises, no intent to cross the border,” Kirby said. “They need to live up to that word.”
The build-up on the Russian side of the border does nothing to de-escalate the tensions between Russia and Ukraine, Kirby said. “It’s doing nothing to assist in the stability of that part of Europe,” the admiral said.
The United States is concerned about the build-up and is monitoring it closely, he said.
The United States has added aircraft and personnel to the aviation detachment in Poland. The United States and other NATO nations have added to the force comprising the Baltic air police mission.
“I would tell you that the staff here in the Pentagon, both the civilian and uniformed, are constantly looking at other ways that … we can further reassure our allies and partners in Europe to potentially look at either adding to or reinforcing existing operations or exercises or even adding on additional opportunities,” Kirby said. “We’re looking at that very closely right now.”
There has been no indication of any Russian exercises in the region, the admiral said. “The way it was explained was that these were springtime exercises,” he said.
He urged reporters to call the Russian Ministry of Defense for more information.
“Our concern is for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and for the Ukrainian people and their nation,” Kirby said.
Moscow has violated Ukraine’s sovereignty. “The forces they have in Crimea and the forces they have along the border with Ukraine are doing nothing to deescalate the tension,” he said. “And that’s the concern.”